What has Stephen Hester achieved?

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A 'fat cat' protester
Image caption,
More than 90,000 people have signed a petition calling on the government to stop large bonuses being paid to RBS bosses

Royal Bank of Scotland boss Stephen Hester has been strongly criticised for his bonus of close to £1m.

The UK taxpayer owns 82% of RBS after the government bailed out the bank at the end of 2008 - when it reported the largest annual loss in UK corporate history of £24.1bn.

For RBS, which can trace its history back almost 300 years, that was its first full-year loss.

It subsequently made a loss of £3.6bn loss in 2009, and £1.13bn in 2010.

Mr Hester - who took over running the bank from Sir Fred Goodwin in November 2008 - has said he is in the midst of implementing a five-year plan to restore the state-owned bank to normality.

He takes his £1.2m base salary, and was awarded £6.5m worth of shares as a bonus last year.

What have been some of his achievements?

On the more positive side, there are several to note.

  • The bank is now making money. For the first nine months of 2011, RBS made pre-tax profits of £1.2bn.
  • The bank says that all of its core businesses are now profitable, other than its Northern Irish unit, Ulster Bank.
  • RBS's ratio of assets - loans and investments - to its loss-absorbing equity capital is a fraction more than 20 times, down from 50 times in the autumn of 2008 when it was rescued. (According to the BBC's business editor Robert Peston, in 2008 a fall in the value of its assets of just 2% was enough to sink it. Today, its assets would have to be written down by 5%.)
  • RBS's balance sheet has been reduced by more than £600bn since 2008.
  • RBS has lent more than £68bn to UK companies in the nine months to September 2011, including over 40p in every £1 lent to small businesses in the UK compared with a much lower customer market share.
  • The bank's ratio of the loans it has made to deposits is 112%, down from 154% more than three years ago.
  • It has increased its portfolio of liquid assets (which it assets that can supposedly be turned into cash in a crisis) from £155bn to £170bn.

But critics of Mr Hester also have some points.

  • Mr Hester has conceded that it will take longer than the promised five years for RBS to revive the bank - which is effectively breaking one of his key promises since taking control of the bank.
  • Under Mr Hester, its shares have fallen substantially to about 27p currently. Its stock fell 48% last year. In 2007, RBS shares were worth about 370p.
  • The bank is worth less than half what taxpayers paid for the shares when rescuing the group. UK taxpayers injected £45.5bn of new capital into RBS. At recent share prices, that investment has fallen in value by a painful £27bn.
  • In 2011, the bank's return on equity fell from 14% to 12% and the cost-to-income ratio rose to 59% from 56%. (The 2013 targets for those two measures are 15% and less than 50%, respectively, from which RBS seems far away.)

Evaluating the performance of a chief executive is never easy.

But when the bank he is running was one of the world's biggest and had imploded, it becomes even harder.

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