Sir Fred Goodwin on Friday refused to rule out Royal Bank of Scotland as a potential suitor for ABN Amro as the bank boosted its management team in the US.
In a conference call with journalists, Sir Fred sidestepped questions about his interest in ABN Amro or any other large deals.
His stance contrasts with comments following the publication of the bank’s annual results earlier this month, when he played down RBS’s interest in acquisitions by saying there was no deal that was “desirable, do-able or affordable” on the horizon.
Analysts believe RBS may be a more logical bidder for ABN Amro than Barclays, its UK rival, which is currently in exclusive talks about a takeover that would value the Dutch bank at about €60bn ($80bn).
RBS would be able to squeeze greater cost savings from ABN Amro due to the overlap between the two banks’ retail operations in the US.
On Friday RBS underlined the scale of its ambitions in the US when it hired Ellen Alemany from Citigroup to be its chief executive in America. Ms Alemany replaces Larry Fish, the long-serving head of RBS’s US retail business, who will become chairman of RBS America.
The move suggests RBS, already the sixth-largest US bank by assets and deposits, is keen to align more closely its retail, corporate and investment banking businesses in North America.
The hiring of Ms Alemany, previously head of Citigroup’s transaction banking business, is also a sign that RBS is placing greater emphasis on corporate banking.
The bank this month declared its intention to become the fourth-largest US corporate bank, behind Citigroup, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase.
RBS is seen as one of a string of potential suitors that could launch a counterbid for ABN Amro or attempt to buy some of its operations.
For much of the past two years, Sir Fred has ruled out large deals in an attempt to persuade shareholders the bank is capable of organic growth.
His stance has helped to boost RBS’s shares, which on Friday closed down 4p at £20.54.
ABN Amro shares rose again on Friday, jumping more than 2 per cent to €32.50, an increase of almost 20 per cent since news of Barclays’ interest emerged.
Barclays shares also continued their rise, closing up 19p at £7.58.
Ms Alemany is the latest senior US bank executive to join a British bank. Last year, RBS hired Guy Whittaker from Citigroup to be finance director. Barclays and Lloyds have in the past hired senior US banking executives to run UK retail operations.