Royal Bank of Scotland picks New Zealander as CEO

State-rescued Royal Bank of Scotland has picked New Zealander Ross McEwan, its head of retail, to be the new chief executive, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.

RBS was in discussions with regulators at the Bank of England over approval of his appointment, the FT said. Other reports said that McEwan's rapid promotion could be confirmed on Friday when RBS publishes half-year earnings.

"RBS picks McEwan as Hester successor," read the FT front page headline in Thursday's edition.

Currrent RBS chief executive Stephen Hester surprised markets in June by announcing that he was stepping down later this year from the bank that is 81-percent owned by the British taxpayer.

According to the RBS website, McEwan was appointed chief executive of the bank's UK Retail division in August 2012, joining from Commonwealth Bank of Australia where he had held a similar position.

The departure of Hester meanwhile, reportedly at the request of the British government, has sparked questions about the strategy for the state-rescued bank.

Analysts believe that British finance minister George Osborne wanted a new face to help guide Royal Bank of Scotland's return to private ownership, which is not expected until late 2014 at the earliest.

RBS was rescued with £45.5 billion (52.0 billion euros, $69.0 billion) of taxpayer cash at the height of the 2008 global financial crisis under the then-Labour government, making it the world's biggest-ever banking bailout.

Hester, who was effectively hired by the government, has earned the respect of the business community by axing 41,000 jobs, selling non-core assets and transforming the lender's balance sheet.

At the same time, unions have been scathing of his management, especially as the massive jobs cull occurred alongside Hester earning millions of pounds in salary during his five years in charge.