ALISON Rose looks to have strengthened her case to be the next boss of Royal Bank of Scotland after being named deputy chief executive and director of NatWest Holdings, the bank’s ring-fenced holding company.

Ms Rose, who has led the bank’s commercial and private banking division since April 2014, has been persistently named in dispatches as a leading contender to succeed Ross McEwan as chief executive of the state-backed institution.

The Durham University graduate joined Royal 20 years ago and has held a range of senior posts at the Edinburgh-based bank.

Before her current role, Ms Rose served as head of markets and international banking for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) for two years, and had a 15-year spell as head of leveraged finance for the bank in the UK between 1994 and 2009.

Following her latest promotion, which takes effect on December 3, Ms Rose will deputise for Mr McEwan both internally and externally, including on the NWH executive committee, and lead on key strategic projects. Ms Rose, who is a member of the RBS executive committee, will perform her additional duties alongside her role as chief executive of commercial and private banking at Royal.

The bank said the appointment of Ms Rose would support the board’s oversight of the ring-fenced business.

NatWest Holdings is the parent group of Royal Bank’s ring-fenced operations, under which five licensed banks fall, including Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest, Ulster Bank and Coutts, the private bank operation. It was set up as part of a restructuring driven by regulations dictating that banks ring-fence their retail operations from their investment banking activities, which are deemed to be riskier.

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David Madden, market analyst at CMC markets, said Ms Rose was “heading in the right direction” to become the eventual successor to Mr McEwan, who has been in post since replacing Stephen Hester in 2013.

Noting that Ms Rose is “respected” within the industry, and has now effectively moved “further up the chain” at Royal, he said her latest promotion “could easily be a stepping stone further along the line”.

Mr Madden added: “When you get to that level of management, you are probably down to a handful of players of competition, let alone all the external [candidates]. It is definitely a move in the right direction.”

However, Mr Madden does not expect Mr McEwan to depart any time soon. There had been speculation that Mr McEwan would move on after steering the bank through its biggest legacy issues. It recently reached a £3.6 billion settlement with the US Department of Justice over its role in selling sub-prime mortgages before the financial crisis, allowing it to pay a dividend for the first time in a decade.

But that speculation appears to have receded. Mr Madden said: “To be perfectly honest, I don’t get any sense of any major move in either direction.”

Speculating that Mr McEwan may now be on other companies’ radars after steering the bank back to financial health, Mr Madden went on: “I don’t see a reason why he would leave.

“If he were to leave, it will entirely be for his own reasons, as far as a I can tell.

“I would imagine he would be fairly happy with himself in bringing the bank to this stage.”

Laith Khalaf, senior analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, suggested that Ms Rose could be considered as candidate to succeed Mr McEwan. He noted: “You can say it means that her hat is in the ring. My balancing comment is that we don’t know [if] McEwan is going anywhere and if and when he does there will no doubt be other candidates considered by the board as well.”

Mr McEwan said: “Alison has been doing a fantastic job leading our commercial and private banking division and cementing our position as the UK’s biggest and best bank for business.

“Alison’s commitment and focus on our customers will also be a strong addition to board discussions and decision-making and this appointment is a reflection of that.”