RBS boss Stephen Hester to step down by year end ahead of privatisation

Stephen Hester would step down as chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland at the end of the year with the UK government pushing for another overhaul of the part-nationalised group and preparing the ground to initiate the sell off of its 82-per cent stake in the lender.

According to aides to Chancellor George Osborne, the bank's board had been keen on the appointment of a new CEO capable of leading and coordinating a five-year transition seeing the RBS reprivatised and re-established as a British commerical bank.

According to Obsborne, having brought back RBS from the brink, now was the time to move on from the rescue phase.

The board said yesterday that it would launch an immediate search for a successor either from within or outside.

Hester had been parachuted into RBS in late 2008 replacing the disgraced Fred Goodwin. The bank had to be bailed out with £45 billion of government funds following the disastrous decision by Goodwin to take over Dutch bank ABN Amro, just as the global financial crisis was about to strike.

He oversaw a dramatic shrinkage and clean-up of RBS, resisting pressure, though, to pull back from international and investment banking as dramatically as the government would have liked.

Meanwhile, the multi-billion privatisation of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is scheduled to be announced by Osborne next week.

Hester will leave the bank later this year, setting the stage for his successor to conclude a "British Gas style" public sell-off.

Further details of the privatisation would be announced in a speech next week. According to  treasury sources cited by The Independent newspaper, he would not announce a timetable for the sale but it would likely take place ahead of the next general election and will aimed at the general public.

According to industry watchers as recently as last month Hester had said in an interview that he wanted to see the bank he had restored to profitability through to its privatisation and did not regard the role as "time limited".

Hester had  made public appearances and appeared all set to finish a job he was called in to do by a government desperately seeking restoration of stability to a bank that was reeling in the wake of its bailout and departure of Goodwin.