RBS chief Stephen Hester: I considered resigning over bonus furore
RBS boss Stephen Hester has revealed he considered resigning from the bank in the wake of the furore surrounding his £1m (€1.2m) bonus.
Mr Hester, who declined to accept the bonus after it caused a public outcry against excessive pay, admitted he faced some "deeply depressing moments" but concluded leaving the job would have been "indulgent".
The admission comes days after RBS chairman Sir Philip Hampton said the bank's directors had never considered resigning over the attention on their pay packages.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Hester also said:
• accepting the bonus would have been "damaging" to RBS;
• bankers should be rewarded for defusing the "biggest time bomb in history";
• hubris set in after years of expansion within the banking sector.
He was speaking after sending an email to RBS employees urging them to overcome attention of pay, which "makes the job harder".
In it, he said: "We can't control the outside world – whether the economic or the political one. That's not unique to us. But if ever something has been proven over our last three years of history, it's this – we can successfully overcome great obstacles."
The bank will give its full-year update later this month.
Mr Hester, who is steering the recovery of the bank that was bailed out by the taxpayer to the tune of £45 billion, was repeatedly asked on the show why his £1.2 million basic salary was not enough.
"Other people decide what to pay me," he said. "It may be less than others and it may be a lot of money but what I have to make sure we do is say, what is the link, what is RBS trying to accomplish? Are we accomplishing that and then should the people, whether that be myself or others, be recognised for that accomplishment?"
He told the programme he had to replace the whole senior management team at the bank when he took charge, and had to recruit people to "defuse the biggest time bomb in history".
It would be a mistake to forget "how successful people are motivated", he added, but he said he had "great sympathy" with public feeling against top pay and bonuses.
In January, Mr Hester was initially offered a bonus of shares worth £970,000 on top of his salary but he waived it hours after Labour announced it would trigger a Commons vote on the controversial award.
The following day, his predecessor Fred Goodwin was stripped of his knighthood for the near-collapse of the bank.
Asked whether he had ever considered resigning, Mr Hester replied: "I am certainly not a robot and there have been some deeply depressing moments, by the way not just now, over the last three years.
"I guess in the end, in the intensity if it, I came to the conclusion that it would be actually indulgent for me to resign and that what I ought to do was to draw if you like on the reserves of strength I have and try to make RBS a success.
"And so long as I feel I can do that, so long as I feel I've got the tools and I'm adding to that, that's what I want. I want RBS to recover well and ideally for me to be remembered as someone who contributed to that process."
Executive bonuses came under the spotlight again this week when Sir David Higgins, the chief executive of Network Rail, also waived his right to a six-figure bonus after the award was criticised by Transport Secretary Justine Greening.
Mr Hester, who previously said even his parents thought he was paid too much, told the Today programme they were a "source of great strength" for him and were "highly supportive".
On the issue of top pay, he said: "I think hubris set in but let's not demonise a whole industry. Let's not demonise something that is fundamental to the world economy that employs millions of people even today.
"We need to correct the areas where that job was done poorly but we shouldn't forget banking is important, financial services is important."