George Mathewson

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George Ross Mathewson
Born (1940-05-14) May 14, 1940 (age 78)
Alma mater University of St Andrews
Known forTransformation of RBS

Sir George Mathewson, CBE (born 14 May 1940 [1] in Dunfermline, Fife) is a British businessman. His father (also George) was an electrical engineer. He was educated at Perth Academy and the University of St Andrews' Queen's College in Dundee, [2] from where he graduated in 1961 with a degree in mathematics and applied physics. He is best known for transforming the Scottish bank The Royal Bank of Scotland from a struggling regional player into a quasi global bank with parallels to Citigroup or HSBC. He was described by the Sunday Herald , as "banking's answer to Bruce Springsteen".

Order of the British Empire order of chivalry of British constitutional monarchy

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the civil service. It was established on 4 June 1917 by King George V and comprises five classes across both civil and military divisions, the most senior two of which make the recipient either a knight if male or dame if female. There is also the related British Empire Medal, whose recipients are affiliated with, but not members of, the order.

Dunfermline Town in Fife, Scotland

Dunfermline is a town and former Royal Burgh, and parish, in Fife, Scotland, on high ground 3 miles (5 km) from the northern shore of the Firth of Forth. The town currently has a recorded population of 50,380 in 2012, making it the most populous locality in Fife and the 11th most populous in Scotland.

Fife Council area of Scotland

Fife is a council area and historic county of Scotland. It is situated between the Firth of Tay and the Firth of Forth, with inland boundaries to Perth and Kinross and Clackmannanshire. By custom it is widely held to have been one of the major Pictish kingdoms, known as Fib, and is still commonly known as the Kingdom of Fife within Scotland. Fife is one of the six local authorities part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland city region.


He is the convener of Scotland's Council of Economic Advisers.

Council of Economic Advisers (Scotland) Scottish government body

The Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) in Scotland is a group of economists and captains of industry who advise the Scottish Government. It was established in 2007, meeting for the first time on 21 September.

Early career

Mathewson started his career as a lecturer at St Andrews University where he did a PhD, before moving to United States to work for Bell Aerospace as an engineer in Buffalo, New York (1967–72). He was attracted back to Scotland by the opening up of the North Sea to oil exploration and joined venture capital group 3i, then called Industrial and Commercial Finance Corporation (1972–81). He was chief executive of the state-funded economic regeneration organisation the Scottish Development Agency (now called Scottish Enterprise) during the Margaret Thatcher years (1981–87). In this role Mathewson led initiatives including the creation of Silicon Glen - using state subsidies to help attract high-tech businesses to Scotland's central lowlands.

Buffalo, New York City in Western New York

Buffalo is the second largest city in the U.S. state of New York and the largest city in Western New York. As of July 2016, the population was 256,902. The city is the county seat of Erie County and a major gateway for commerce and travel across the Canada–United States border, forming part of the bi-national Buffalo Niagara Region.

3i multinational private equity and venture capital company headquartered in London, United Kingdom

3i Group plc is a multinational private equity and venture capital company based in London, United Kingdom. 3i is listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.

Scottish Enterprise

Scottish Enterprise is a sponsored non-departmental public body of the Scottish Government which encourages economic development, enterprise, innovation and investment in business. The body covers the eastern, central and southern parts of Scotland whilst a similar body, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, operates in north-western Scotland.

Royal Bank of Scotland (1987 - 2000)

Mathewson joined the Royal Bank of Scotland, which is headquartered in the Scottish capital city of Edinburgh, in 1987 as director of strategic planning and development. The following year the Scottish bank showed signs of international ambition by acquiring the US-based Citizens Financial Group and by entering a long-term "strategic alliance" with the Spanish bank Banco Santander. While the first deal became the springboard for RBS gaining a significant US presence, the deal with Santander was dissolved in 2004 after the Spanish bank offended its UK partner by taking over its UK rival Abbey National.

Edinburgh Capital city in Scotland

Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland and one of its 32 council areas. Historically part of the county of Midlothian, it is located in Lothian on the Firth of Forth's southern shore.

Citizens Financial Group, Inc. is an American bank headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island, which operates in the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Banco Santander, S.A., doing business as Santander Group, is a Spanish multinational commercial bank and financial services company founded and based in Santander, Spain. In addition to hubs in Madrid and Barcelona, Santander maintains a presence in all global financial centres as the largest Spanish banking institution in the world. Although known for its European banking operations, it has extended operations across North and South America, and more recently in continental Asia.

When Mathewson became RBS's chief executive in 1992 the bank had been severely weakened by bad debts arising from poor lending decisions, which had been exacerbated by the economic slowdown of the early 1990s. To get the bank onto an even keel, Mathewson commissioned 'Project Columbus', which transformed the processes and structure of RBS's UK retail banking operations and included a tightening of credit controls, a focus on sales and a modernisation of processes and management. This earned him a reputation for ruthlessness but gave the bank a solid platform for growth. In 1998 RBS became the first ever Scottish company to make profits of more than £1 billion. He was knighted for services to Scottish business the following year.

The defining moment of Mathewson's career came with the £20 billion takeover of the much larger UK bank National Westminster Bank in February 2000. The acquisition was a sweet triumph for Mathewson, who mustered support from investment banks Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs to defeat RBS's Scottish arch-rival the Bank of Scotland, which had opened the bidding for NatWest. Some argue that Mathewson would not have dared to make a hostile bid for NatWest if Sir Peter Burt, chief executive of the Bank of Scotland, had not gone first.

Merrill, previously Merrill Lynch, is an American investing and wealth management division under the auspices of Bank of America. Along with BofA Securities, the investment banking arm, both firms engage in prime brokerage and security dealings. The firm is headquartered in New York City, and occupies the entire 34 stories of 250 Vesey Street, part of the Brookfield Place complex, in Manhattan. Merrill employs over 15,000 financial advisors and manages $2.2 trillion in client assets.

Goldman Sachs U.S. investment bank

The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., is an American multinational investment bank and financial services company headquartered in New York City. It offers services in investment management, securities, asset management, prime brokerage, and securities underwriting.

The Bank of Scotland plc is a commercial and clearing bank based in Edinburgh, Scotland. With a history dating to the 17th century, it is the fifth-oldest surviving bank in the United Kingdom, and is the only commercial institution created by the Parliament of Scotland to remain in existence. It was one of the first banks in Europe to print its own banknotes, and it continues to print its own sterling banknotes under legal arrangements that allow Scottish banks to issue currency.

Soon after the NatWest acquisition, Mathewson stepped down as RBS's CEO, handing the reins to his deputy Fred Goodwin, who assumed responsibility for integrating NatWest. Mathewson became executive deputy chairman of the enlarged RBS Group. He became chairman in May 2001 following the retirement of former Tory politician George Younger.

Frederick Anderson Goodwin, FRSE, FCIBS is a Scottish chartered accountant and former banker who was Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) between 2001 and 2009.

Tory A conservative political philosophy

A Tory is a person who holds a political philosophy known as Toryism, based on a British version of traditionalism and conservatism, which upholds the supremacy of social order as it has evolved throughout history. The Tory ethos has been summed up with the phrase "God, King, and Country". Tories generally advocate monarchism, and were historically of a high church Anglican religious heritage, opposed to the liberalism of the Whig faction.

While Mathewson was chairman, RBS bought Cleveland, Ohio-based Charter One, which was bolted onto the bank's Citizens arm, and a five per cent stake in Beijing-based Bank of China. Mathewson stepped down as chairman in April 2006, and was succeeded by former AstraZeneca chief executive Sir Tom McKillop, who is three years his junior. He became something of an iconic figure in Scottish business circles as a result of the transformation of RBS.

Life after RBS

After retiring from RBS, Mathewson became chairman of the campaign board of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and non-executive chairman of hedge fund Tosca, which was active in RBS's disastrous takeover in 2007 of Dutch bank ABN Amro. He is also a non-executive director of investment company the Scottish Investment Trust, wealth managers Cheviot Asset Management and Perth-based bus and train company Stagecoach Group. He is on the board of directors of the Institute of International Finance and president of the International Monetary Conference.

Personal life

Sir George Mathewson was knighted in the New Year honours in 1999 for services to economic development in Scotland and banking. His interests include rugby, golf, tennis and water sports.

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  1. "Birthday's today". The Telegraph. 14 May 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2014. Sir George Mathewson, Chairman, Royal Bank of Scotland Group, 2001–06, 73
  2. "Business profile: Dynasty ends as a banking royal abdicates". The Daily Telegraph. 19 April 2006.