John Hourican, the former Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) executive who helped steer it through the 2008 financial crash but was then forced to step down amid the Libor rate-rigging scandal five years later, is making a stunning return to corporate Britain.
Sky News has learnt that Mr Hourican is close to being named chief executive of NewDay, a consumer finance provider which runs co-branded credit cards with retail giants including Amazon, Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group, Debenhams and the tour operator Tui Travel.
The appointment is expected to be confirmed in the next few days, according to insiders.
Mr Hourican’s return to the UK will mean his departure from Bank of Cyprus, which he has run since the end of 2013 and for much of the ensuing period alongside the former Deutsche Bank chief Josef Ackermann.
His appointment at NewDay is understood to have been given the nod by UK financial regulators.
It will be announced just over six years since he was effectively forced out of RBS by George Osborne, then chancellor, who ordered the lender’s board to provide a public scapegoat for its £390m of Libor-related financial penalties.
Mr Hourican was deemed to have been harshly treated by colleagues and rivals alike, sacrificing millions of pounds of pay and seeing his reputation hit by the fallout despite not being implicated personally in any wrongdoing.
Sir Philip Hampton, RBS chairman at the time, said the agreement with Mr Hourican was “tough” on the Irish banker and that he was leaving “in recognition of…management issues”.
Until that point, Mr Hourican had been an essential ally of Stephen Hester, the chief executive brought in to keep RBS afloat by winding down huge parts of its trillion pound balance sheet.
They engineered the sale of tens of billions of pounds in assets, and kept the profitable parts of its investment bank generating sufficient capital to aid the group’s survival bid.
Months after Mr Hourican’s departure, Mr Osborne repeated the trick by forcing Sir Philip to sack Mr Hester.
Since joining Bank of Cyprus, which itself fell into parlous financial trouble because of toxic loans, Mr Hourican had indicated a desire to return to Ireland and had been linked with several top banking jobs.
His UK comeback will signal a further step in the preparations of the credit card and unsecured loan provider’s shareholders – the buyout firms Cinven and CVC Capital Partners – for a stock market flotation.
Cinven and CVC bought NewDay in January 2017, and a decision on whether to pursue an initial public offering is likely to be between six and 18 months away.
A sale is also a possibility, while NewDay has been touted as a potential suitor for Provident Financial, the consumer finance group which was left blindsided by a hostile takeover bid last week from Non-Standard Finance.
Market sources say that based on its current business trajectory, a float could value the company at about £1.5bn.
It has roughly 4.7 million customer accounts, with credit card receivables standing at £2.3bn at 30 June, 2018.
Political and economic uncertainty are, nevertheless, likely to remain significant obstacles on the road to an exit for Cinven and CVC.
Last year, they brought in the City grandee, Sir Mike Rake, to act as NewDay’s chairman – an early signal of a prospective IPO.
Investment banks are expected to be hired in the next few months to work with the company and its shareholders.
Mr Hourican will replace James Corcoran, who has run the business for the last decade.
NewDay declined to comment this weekend, while Mr Hourican could not be reached for comment.