Lloyds picks Blackwell to steer lender’s return

Lord Blackwell was head of the policy unit for John Major. Picture: PA
Lord Blackwell was head of the policy unit for John Major. Picture: PA
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Former Downing Street adviser Lord Blackwell has been confirmed as the next chairman of Lloyds Banking Group as the lender prepares for a return to private ownership.

The Tory peer, who served as the head of Sir John Major’s policy unit, has been on the board of the taxpayer-backed lender since June last year and became chairman of its Scottish Widows arm three months later.

Blackwell, who also chairs construction firm Interserve, takes the helm on 3 April following the retirement of the bank’s current chairman, Sir Win Bischoff, who has been in the role since September 2009.

Bischoff said: “Over the past four years, the group has made significant progress in its goal to become a strong, efficient, UK-focused retail and commercial bank. Whilst clearly some challenges remain, the performance of the group is well on track. This gives me great confidence in its future and I wish Norman every success as he leads the group at this important time.”

One of Blackwell’s key tasks will be to steer the lender, which is 33 per cent owned by the state, back into private hands. The UK government sold a 6 per cent stake to institutional investors in September and has indicated that private shareholders will be able to take part in the next sale.He said: “This is a great opportunity to be part of helping the bank go even further in serving customers and supporting the UK economic recovery as it returns to full private ownership.”

It is thought that the Cambridge-educated peer will scale back some of his other activities in the run-up to replacing Bischoff, although he will remain as chairman of Scottish Widows in the meantime.

Tony Watson, the bank’s senior independent director who led the process of appointing its new chair, said Blackwell was the board’s “unanimous choice” for the role, which commands an annual fee of £700,000.

Lloyds is also seeking a chairman for TSB, its high street banking arm that was spun off earlier this year after a deal to sell more than 600 branches to Co-operative Bank collapsed. The business is expected to float towards the middle of next year.