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Profile: RBS boss Stephen Hester

29 January 12 17:38
Stephen Hester

RBS boss Stephen Hester has spent his entire career in banking apart from a four-year stint as head of the listed property company British Land.

He is a former comprehensive school pupil who grew up in apparently unexceptional circumstances.

He joined the investment bank Credit Suisse straight from Oxford University, where he earned a first in philosophy, politics and economics, and rose swiftly through the ranks to become its youngest-ever managing director at 35.

In 2001 he left the bank after the arrival of a new boss led to a major restructuring and joined Abbey National, then a struggling outfit in search of a financial director.

'Dynamic and sharp witted'

At Abbey, Mr Hester, 51, helped turn the bank around by restructuring its debt.

Former Abbey chief executive, Luqman Arnold, told the Financial Times in 2008 that Mr Hester was intellectually "strong" with the ability to simplify complex issues and think "very clearly" about strategic options.

Another colleague described him to the Guardian as "dynamic and sharp witted, a brilliant strategic thinker".

It was shortly after the bank was sold to Spain's Santander for £9.5bn in 2004 that Mr Hester took time out of the finance world to become chief executive of British Land, a FTSE-100 listed property company.

There he earned a reputation for introducing greater transparency in the company's dealings, cutting down on excessive spending and rarely attending many of the industry's social events.

He was appointed chief executive of RBS in 2008 with the job of turning it around after the government bailed it out with billions of pounds of taxpayers' money.

His Who's Who entry lists his interests as skiing, country sports and horticulture.

His years in banking have allowed him to indulge himself in his passions. He owns a skiing chalet in Switzerland and besides a home in upmarket Holland Park in west London, has a 350-acre country estate in Oxfordshire.

Garden passion

Broughton Grange boasts one of the most spectacular gardens in the country designed by the celebrity landscape architect Tom Stuart-Smith.

It is open to the public for a few days each year as part of the National Garden Scheme.

The NGS website describes the site as: "An impressive 25 acres of gardens and light woodland in an attractive Oxfordshire setting. Vision has been used to blend the gardens into the countryside."

Mr Stuart Smith told Garden magazine in 2010, "In April each year the parterre explodes into a polychromatic dazzle of 5,000 tulips and the box hedging, which forms the parterre, flushes vivid fresh green."

Mr Hester shares a love of hunting with his estranged wife, Barbara Abt, another financier who, it is understood, he met at Credit Suisse. She is a master of foxhounds at the Warwickshire hunt.

The couple have two children.

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