NatWest trims the executive fat days after U.K. offloads its controlling stake in bloated bank that’s now cutting down on ‘unnecessary complexity’



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There’s a big overhaul in the works at the U.K.’s NatWest Group.

New CEO Paul Thwaite is changing up the historic bank’s top leadership by ridding it of “unnecessary complexity” as one of Britain’s best-known banks tries to redefine itself.

On Tuesday, Thwaite made a slew of management changes including appointing a new chief operating officer and eliminating the chief legal officer at the group, according to a note provided to Fortune by NatWest. Other major changes include four-decade veteran Robert Begbie’s appointment as permanent head of commercial and institutional banking. 

The total executive team will be trimmed down to 10 people from 15 earlier, the bank said.

According to Thwaite, “customer focus and simplification needs to start at the top of the bank” so the bank can focus on adding more value where the need arises and reduce “unnecessary complexity.” 

In a statement, NatWest claims the new structure will make it operate as a “simpler, more integrated business.”

The group has had significant updates this week—days before its top-level downsizing, the U.K. government shed its controlling stake in the bank to below 30% (the stake was as high as 84% at one point). Last May, taxpayers’ share in NatWest was reduced to under 40%. The slow and steady fall in public ownership could involve more share buybacks in the coming months and a total exit by the government by 2026. 

Thwaite took over at the helm of NatWest permanently in February from the embattled Alison Rose following a scandal over the disclosure of sensitive information regarding Brexit figurehead Nigel Farage that led to her resignation. The row hurt NatWest’s reputation as one of U.K.’s leading banks.

Among the many tasks ahead of Thwaite as he takes on his new role is to navigate a difficult macroeconomic environment amid high interest rates and inflation in Britain. 

The bright side? NatWest did pretty well in 2023 as profits were up 20% compared to a year earlier and shareholder returns stayed strong. For his first year, Thwaite plans to double-down and expand the bank’s core business. And even though taxpayers’ stake in NatWest is shrinking, the bank still boasts a 19 million-strong customer-base across Britain.

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