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Disabling Kane

Douglas Fraser | 14:32 UK time, Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Arguably the most powerful man in the Scottish economy is departing, and don't underestimate the implications.

Archie Kane, who heads up Lloyds Banking Group north of the border as well as its insurance division, has announced he won't stand for re-election in May to the board of the financial giant.

Aged 58, he's retiring.

I'm told it'll be an active retirement.

But the timing seems to have rather more to do with the new chief executive at LBG making his presence felt with some organisational changes - and Archie Kane is one of them.

Antonio Horta-Osorio recently replaced Eric Daniels as chief executive, bringing his experience from running Santander's operations in the UK.

That involved wrapping a range of well-known brands - Abbey, Alliance and Leicester and Bradford and Bingley - into that of the Spanish parent company, while also buying a chunk of RBS business that the European Commission forced it to sell.

He's decreed the Lloyds insurance division - one of the biggest in Europe - is to be split between general insurance and the life and pensions business that includes Scottish Widows and Clerical and Medical.

New division chiefs are moving in promptly to take them over.

Younger brand image

The future of Bank of Scotland and Lloyds TSB Scotland - as with Halifax, the English part of Lloyds TSB and Cheltenham and Gloucester - is changing also.

The new chief executive has already said he's accelerating the sale of Lloyds TSB Scotland and Cheltenham and Gloucester, which was the price exacted by the European Commission for permitting Lloyds Banking Group's bailout.

As for the other big brands, there's been a head of retail across the whole group, Helen Weir, and it's been announced she's stepping down.

From now on, these brands will be run more independently of each other, with their bosses answering up the chain to Senor Horto-Osorio.

Halifax is already taking on a younger image, distinct from Bank of Scotland, while BoS shifts closer to the more staid and traditional image projected by Lloyds TSB.

Pulling the plug

So much shifting of brands around... does it really matter?

Well, consider this: in the two and a half years since Lloyds TSB took over Halifax Bank of Scotland, much of the work of the new Lloyds Banking Group has been unravelling the immensely overstretched loan book built up by HBOS.

The people in charge have been deciding where to pull the plug and where to let businesses survive across much of the Scottish economy.

That process is still going on.

There's a lot of it to be done, and as the recovery continues, with asset values rising (albeit slowly in many cases), there's an expectation that Bank of Scotland/LBG (as with other lenders) will get out with what it can from many of its troubled business customers, increasing the rate of those being pushed into administration.

There have also been decisions to be made about rationalising its asset management division, with Scottish Widows Investment Partnership (previously part of Lloyds TSB) winning out over Insight Investment, and keeping 400 jobs in Edinburgh.

Lloyds has also fended off investor pressure to sell off Scottish Widows.

Powerful voice

Now, it's not clear how all these decisions have been made and how influence has been wielded internally.

And several big figures in Scottish business say they've found lending decisions have all been moved from the Mound in Edinburgh to London head office.

But it's fair to assume that having Archie Kane on the board of directors and spending much of his time on the Mound has been a powerful voice for keeping the substantial Scottish end of the Lloyds Banking Group in the forefront of minds in London headquarters - and that at a time when the HBOS legacy has stretched patience with the company's strong Scottish roots.

Those working in Bank of Scotland retail now answer to Peter Navin, who has been retail director in Scotland for the past two years. He's not on the board of directors.

Indeed, he answers to Joy Griffiths, and she isn't on the board of directors either, but answers to the chief executive.

A significant Scottish presence at the top table of one of the country's two dominant lenders has been removed.


  • Comment number 1.

    Ok, so a bit of tokenist jobs for the boys has been or will be flited! As for the KANE guy, lauging all the way to an off-shore bank, perhaps? And just what will the GRC (Glorified Regional Cooncil) do about it, nothing! They simply are impotent against moves of this nature, just like they are for most anyother type of business..........


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