ROYAL Bank of Scotland is reported to have approached the head of rival HSBC’s operations in the UK, Ian Stuart, about him becoming its next chief executive.

The Financial Times said Mr Stuart was one of the leading external candidates to succeed Ross McEwan as chief executive of Edinburgh-based RBS.

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Mr McEwan said in April he planned to stand down once a successor was appointed.

After a 38-year career in banking Mr Stuart appears well qualified to lead RBS, which decided to focus on the UK after receiving a £45 billion taxpayer bailout amid the financial crisis.

Mr Stuart spent 22 years at NatWest, which RBS bought in 2000. He moved to Barclays in 2007 before becoming head of HSBC’s commercial banking operations in the UK and Europe in 2014.

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Mr Stuart was appointed chief executive of HSBC’s ring-fenced UK bank in 2017.

He is thought to face strong competition for the top job at RBS from internal candidates including Alison Rose who was appointed deputy chief executive and director of NatWest Holdings, in November. This contains the bulk of the bank’s operations.

Last week RBS announced Mr McEwan is to take on the top job at National Australia Bank. RBS said then its search for a new chief executive was ongoing.