Benny Higgins is to step down as chief executive of Tesco Bank, just months after the lender fell victim to a cyber attack that affected thousands of customers.
Higgins told The Scotsman that his next role will be in a “traditional” business, adding: “It’s more likely to be financial services than not, but by no means certain.”
Edinburgh-based Tesco Bank said that Higgins will retire in February after ten years as its boss.
He joined the lender in 2008 after the supermarket giant bought out Royal Bank of Scotland’s 50 per cent stake in what was a joint venture between the two groups.
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Higgins said: “There’s nothing mysterious – it’s quite straightforward – having done ten years I think you’ve got to know the right time for yourself to move on to something different and it’s right for the business as well.
“I want to make sure that I’ve got ample time to embark on another full-time project as well as the other things I do.”
He added: “There are one or two things around that may crystallise but… I’ve still got another eight months to focus on Tesco Bank and during that time of course I’ll turn my attention to what might be the right project for me. I’ll be looking forward to that next chapter after ten years of which I’ve very proud at Tesco.
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However, his tenure has not been without controversy. Last year it was reported that he had billed Tesco Bank £18,000 in taxi expenses during an eight-month period. The chief executive, who was paid £2.1 million last year, was ferried to the Royal Opera House, private members’ clubs and several plush London restaurants.
In November, Tesco Bank paid out an estimated £2.5m to 9,000 customers after it fell victim to a cyber attack.
The bank temporarily froze online transactions as part of emergency security measures, and was forced to block some customers’ cards after “suspicious activity” was detected in its fraud prevention system.
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During his tenure, Higgins has overseen an increase in customer account numbers from 5.8 million to 8 million, seen customer deposits rise from £5.2 billion to £8.5bn and employee numbers jump from 200 to 4,000 at Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle.
Tesco group chief executive Dave Lewis said: “Benny has steered Tesco Bank to the strong position it is in today.
“The strong growth in customers, deposits and lending is down to his leadership. It has been a pleasure having him on the leadership team, and we wish him all the best in his future endeavours.”