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How about a female chairman of RBS?

The search for Sir Philip Hampton’s successor as chairman of Royal Bank of Scotland is bound to heighten speculation that it could be a leading businesswoman.

What are the odds of a near-clean sweep of women in the top jobs in Scotland by next year?

Nicola Sturgeon is practically guaranteed the leadership of the SNP and the role of First Minister, and women lead two of the three other parties. Don’t bet against a campaign for a woman to become chairman of the country’s biggest company to replace Sir Philip who is leaving next year to take on the same role at GlaxoSmithKline.

It may be a good thing. Research for the UK government has found that companies with more women on their boards outperform their male-dominated rivals, with an average 42% higher return in sales, 66% greater return on invested capital and 53% higher return on equity.

Jayne-Anne Gadhia, the head of Edinburgh-based Virgin Money, said having women in charge during the banking crisis could have made a difference. Some had been “motivated by the thrill of the chase” and she said a more balanced board might result in a more balanced strategy.

The UK has already made huge progress in achieving a better gender balance. In just five years we have moved from a situation where one in five FTSE 100 companies had no women on their boards to having the same proportion represented on these boards.

Former Standard Life chief Sir Sandy Crombie, the senior independent director who told me in April he was not interested in the job, is leading the search for Sir Philip’s successor. If he’s looking to increase female representation at the top of RBS who might be in contention? Here are three potential candidates.

Baroness Ford chaired the Olympic Park Legacy Committee, which gives her a link to government sources. Last year she became chairman of STV. She headed the capital markets business at Royal Bank of Canada and she would be a popular choice and add another female at the top of a FTSE 100 company.

Moya Greene became the first female and non-British chief executive at Royal Mail in 2010 and apart from transforming the former loss-making basket case she has taken it to a flotation that makes her a big favourite in government circles. That process would translate comfortably to the challenge at RBS. Nor is she is a one-hit wonder. At Canadian Post she trebled profits. In 2003, she was named one of the 100 most influential women in the country.

Carolyn McCall The Indian-born only child of British expat parents was made chief executive of Easyjet in 2010, becoming only the third CEO of a FTSE 100 company and modernising its operations. It’s been a tough time for the company and she has proved to be more than a match for its critics, including founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou. This toughness would be an attribute in tackling a difficult two to three years for RBS.

And if it has to be a man….

Lord Myners  was the minister in charge of the banks when RBS went belly up so has the inside story that  would help steer its immediate future.

Myners has never been afraid to speak his mind and produced a critical report of the Cooperative Group’s governance this year after joining the board of the troubled organisation.

Myners would fit the bill, having worked in the sector since 1974 and holding a number of senior positions in the City. He is a former chairman of Marks & Spencer.

City commentator David Buik says: ” I sincerely hope that RBS heads for Lord Myners’s services. Whether he will do the job remains to be seen. However he ticks all the boxes.”

Some might feel his time as a director of the discredited NatWest at the time of its takeover by RBS in 2000 would count against him. He was also challenged over his account of the pension agreement with former chief executive Fred Goodwin.

However, he has earned respect as  heavyweight in the City. He is a former chairman of the Association of Investment Trust Companies and has also been a member of the Financial Reporting Council and the Panel on Takeovers and Mergers. The Myners report for the Treasury and Department of Trade and Industry questioned whether pension funds were acting in the interests of their beneficiaries.

As for other candidates, former KPMG executive Brendan Nelson, a fellow non-executive director at RBS, was linked with the position earlier this year.



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