Mike Biggs linked to top job at Direct Line as RBS sells part of Coutts arm

Mike Biggs (R): linked to an important role at Direct Line. Picture: PA
Mike Biggs (R): linked to an important role at Direct Line. Picture: PA
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ROYAL Bank of Scotland unveiled the sale of parts of its Coutts wealth management business yesterday, as reports linked an ex-Aviva finance director with the chairman’s post at its Direct Line Group insurance arm.

RBS has targeted the end of 2012 to divest the insurance business as part of its major slimming down, and Mike Biggs, currently chairman of insurance-focused takeover specialist Resolution, is in the frame for the job.

Sources said Biggs had yet to accept the post, while RBS would not comment. The bank was ordered by European regulators to divest the insurance division in return for the taxpayer bail-out that has seen the state left with an 82 per cent stake.

Direct Line Group, as well as its eponymous Direct Line brand, also owns home and motor insurers Privilege and Churchill, as well as the Green Flag roadside recovery business.

The speculation about Biggs came as RBS said that Coutts, known in the UK as banker to the Queen, intended to sell its African, Caribbean and Latin American operations to RBC Wealth Management of Canada.

The Coutts business being sold for an undisclosed sum has client assets of £1.5 billion, or about 2 per cent of the subsidiary’s total client assets.

Rory Tapner, chief executive of RBS’s wealth division, said Coutts wanted to focus on markets such as the UK, Switzerland, the Middle East, Russia and selected Asian countries.

It came as the group said it had started to wind down equity capital market and corporate finance units in Indonesia, Korea and Singapore as part of the retrenchment of its investment banking business. About 70 jobs are expected to go.

RBS is in continuing talks with CIMB, the Malaysian bank, about selling the Scottish bank’s wholesale banking business in other parts of Asia, understood to include Australia, Hong Kong and India.

The bank, under chief executive Stephen Hester’s retrenchment programme, has already quit investment banking in the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, and sold its Hoare Govett stockbroking division to US investment bank Jefferies.

l Adam & Company, the RBS-owned private bank, relocates today to a new head office in Edinburgh’s St Andrew Square from Charlotte Square.

Hester said: “The move to the new headquarters is a firm statement of our commitment to Adam & Company and a vote of confidence in the financial services sector in Edinburgh and Scotland.”