By Mark Kleinman, City Editor
The boss of the Clydesdale and Yorkshire banks is stepping down in the wake of a deluge of insurance mis-selling claims.
Sky News has learnt that National Australia Bank (NAB) has hired City headhunters Korn Ferry to identify a successor to David Thorburn who can lead the business through a stock market listing later this year.
In a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange issued after an enquiry by Sky News, NAB said Mr Thorburn would leave later this year and said the recruitment of a new chief executive was “well underway”.
Mr Thorburn joined Clydesdale in 1993 before taking over the leadership of the UK business in 2011.
His departure comes at an awkward time for NAB, which is planning to offload its British operations, potentially by way of a stock market listing before the end of 2015.
The UK business has become a drag on the profitability of its parent, largely due to ongoing provisions for mis-selling payment protection insurance (PPI) and interest rate hedging products to smaller companies.
Last October, NAB issued a profit warning, which it blamed on a £450m PPI bill and £250m charge to compensate interest rate swap customers.
People familiar with the company said its leadership had concluded that a new leader was required to take it to the public markets.
Andrew Thorburn, the NAB CEO who is no relation to the departing UK boss, said last autumn that it had “an intention to exit the UK “(as) an absolute priority”.
In Tuesday’s statement, issued after the close of the Australian stock markets, he insisted that the Clydesdale and Yorkshire businesses were “in much better shape” as a result of his namesake’s efforts.
David Thorburn said: “I believe that the business requires a five-year commitment from me, particularly as NAB looks at options to accelerate the exit from its UK banking business and I felt this was a significant undertaking.”
Morgan Stanley, the investment bank, is working on the flotation of NAB’s UK operation, which comes amid a competition probe into the personal current accounts and small business banking markets.