February 3, 2012 6:48 pm

Little chance of the quiet life for RBS chairman

Sir Philip Hampton has little time to pursue his passion for sailing these days, as the 58-year-old financier grapples with a more intense third phase to his career than he bargained for.

Having spent the first part of his working life as an investment banker with Lazard, Sir Philip embarked on a series of finance director jobs with British household names. He rose to prominence as chairman of J Sainsbury and then edged into public sector roles – first as the author of a government report on regulation and enforcement, then as chairman of UKFI, the body set up to oversee the banks that were nationalised in the 2008 financial crisis.

A quiet retirement could have beckoned next. But in January 2009, after only two months at UKFI, there was an emergency at the unit’s biggest shareholding, RBS. The bank’s chairman Sir Tom McKillop was ejected in the wake of Fred Goodwin’s departure as chief executive, and the nominated replacement, Mervyn Davies, was appointed to the Lords by prime minister Gordon Brown and made trade minister. With only a few days’ warning, Sir Philip was parachuted into the chairman’s job at RBS.

He tried to remove himself from the bonus farrago a week ago, saying he did not want to be considered for a long-term incentive award – inherited via the contract originally written for Lord Davies. His worst nightmare now would be if Stephen Hester, RBS chief executive, tired of the relentless attacks and quit. Filling that job in the current climate would pose probably the biggest challenge of Sir Philip’s career.

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