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RBC's top executive stepping down

Posted October 1, 2009

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— Scott Custer, chairman and chief executive of RBC Bank, announced his plans to retire Thursday.

The longtime RBC executive and community leader in Raleigh said he will step down Nov. 1.

“No. 1, it’s my decision,” Custer told WRAL News moments after announcing his decision to RBC’s employees. “I have been thinking about it for two or three months.”

RBC Bank Chief Executive Scott Custer 'Sometimes it's good to bring in a new coach'

Custer, 52, will be replaced by Jim Westlake, who directs international operations for the parent Royal Bank of Canada in Toronto. Custer reports to Westlake.

Westlake, who will operate out of an office in Raleigh, has worked at Royal Bank of Canada since 1995.

RBC Bank is the U.S. subsidiary of Royal Bank of Canada, encompassing more than 5,000 employees, including more than 500 in the Triangle.

Acknowledging that the “last couple of years have been very tough” in the banking industry, Custer said he decided the time was right for him to step down and pursue other opportunities.

"You reach a point both personally and in the life of a company where it's just the right time to make a change," he said. “We’re at a good point. We have brought in a new management team, and we are positioned for growth.

“Sometimes it’s good to bring in a new coach.”

The bank has been restructuring its management team in recent months in response to economic factors. In September, a pair of Wachovia veterans were named to the offices of president and chief financial officer.

Reginald Davis spent his entire career with Wachovia until being tapped as president of RBC Sept. 9. Before his hire, that role was open for more than a year.

Glenn D. McCoy came to RBC Sept. 21 as chief financial officer. He was most recently chief financial officer of Wachovia's mortgage and retail credit division.

Both men report directly to Custer.

Custer reaffirmed RBC’s commitment to Raleigh and said that Westlake’s decision to operate out of RBC Plaza was an indication that the bank would continue to expand its local presence.

"I believe we're making the right decisions with respect to building out a new management team, building the right level of new infrastructure here that's going to support a much larger business," he said.

Westlake echoed Custer's enthusiasm in the future of RBC's presence in the Triangle.

"This is our head office. We have a lot of senior people. We're committed to Raleigh. We will be just as much of the community as we always have been," he said.

Custer has been with the bank in its various incarnations for two decades, serving as CEO since October 2004. He was a prime mover behind the move of the RBC headquarters to Raleigh from Rocky Mount and the construction of the landmark RBC Plaza.

The 33-story, $136 million building – the tallest in Raleigh – also is home to offices, retail shops and luxury condominiums.

At the building's grand opening last year, Custer said he was confident about the company's future, despite the declining economy.

"We take a longer-term perspective, and in the long term, the U.S. economy will recover, and business here will be solid and strong," he said. "We think having a flagship building like this is going to serve us extremely well."

Custer has directed RBC through aggressive growth since taking over as CEO.

In June 2001, Royal Bank of Canada acquired Centura Banks, which was based in Rocky Mount. Centura’s name was changed to RBC Centura.

In October 2004, Custer replaced Kel Landis as CEO, and two years later, RBC broke ground for its new headquarters in Raleigh.

In December 2006, RBC acquired Flag Financial, and three months later, the bank made another deal, buying 39 branches from AmSouth in Alabama. Eleven months after that, it acquired Alabama National BanCorporation.

RBC then transitioned its name, dropping Centura in 2008.

Custer launched his banking career at Wachovia and later moved to First Union National Bank as a commercial banking officer. He is a graduate of the College of William and Mary.

An active community citizen, Custer is a member of the boards at the N.C. Chamber, the YMCA of the Triangle and the North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation. He also is on the board of the Communities in Schools of North Carolina.

He said he hasn't yet decided what he will do after he leaves RBC.

"I've got a unique opportunity that not a lot of people have," he said. "I can come up for air in my career here and take a look around and see what else might be out there."

14 Comments

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  • ncwebguy Oct 2, 2009

    I could lose my job because of what "they" do, regardless of what I do. I do my job well, and that is irrelevant because someone somewhere made a series of bad decisions.

    I really don't think two former Wachovia execs should be given "atta-boys" and the reins of a bank as well-managed as RBC.

    RBC is the big fish in a smaller pool that is Raleigh. The Charlotte "success story" is a flimsy, foreclosed house of cards bulit on lies and trickery from the old First Union (Wachovia-Wells Fargo), which was then emulated by the old NCNB (BoA). They bought known-bad assets (Golden West, Merril Lynch) yet the customers have to pay the price again and again through next to no interest on deposits, higher interest rates on loans, higher fees, etc.

    I hope RBC is setting itself up to cherry pick the *good* talent, branches, customers, etc. that WF loses by mismanaging things from San Francisco.

    Time will tell.

  • Heel from Hell Oct 1, 2009

    Gork...I thought you'd have more respect for a guy named Gord...LOL. My point was simply that our northern neighbors generally "get it" more that their counterparts here. Yes, Gord makes a pretty penny. His compensation, however, was determined by the board of directors which is answerable to RBC shareholders. If there is an issue, it lies with those that approve these packages...not those that accept them.

    Citizen, I get the point...really I do. Ex comp has gotten way out of hand, and it began long ago. I'd only offer my comments above and the thought that we shouldn't engage in class warefare as much as we should seek to make everyone better.

    Remember, Ken Lewis was instrumental in creating the BoA behemoth that brought thousands of jobs to Charlotte. If you even give him 5% credit for the additions to the Meck tax base then he earned every penny afforded him.

    Like my daddy used to say...don't worry about what THEY do...worry about what YOU do.

  • Ripcord Oct 1, 2009

    You just knew the class warfare anti-corporate kooks would come out of the woodwork on this story.

  • Gork Oct 1, 2009

    "m4ncsu" - and that makes you feel good?! that's the Joe-the-Plumber trap...

    If it were true (and I don't believe it is), why would you feel good about it? Wakeup. Businesses are only legal entities, they should not have "rights". And, people whom they consume for fuel should stop being so naive as to "take pride" in the success of those legal entities, while you wonder how to pay a doctor...

  • Caveman93 Oct 1, 2009

    ALL HANDS ABANDON SHIP! Taht two CEO's from the major banks today. I wonder what they know we don't know huh?

  • WRALblows Oct 1, 2009

    I would like for those who admire the success of banking industry executives to explain to me exactly what they do, day-to-day, that makes their work worth 125 times what the highest paid salary/wage worker earns annually.

    I am a direct report of a CFO. I have worked directly for CFO's and other top level corporate executives. I can tell you with certainty that the majority of their contributions DO NOT align with their compensation. Corporations have become a system of preferential bias like overgrown, out of control fraternities where money is passed around at the top to those who can cut as many costs from the revenue stream as possible. This includes cutting the greatest liability in any company whenever possible, the human resources.

    As long as the focus of American banks and corporations continues to be returns to top level executives and investors, at ANY cost, wherever possible, the common American salary or wage worker is an expendable asset, not a valued one.

  • m4ncsu Oct 1, 2009

    Gork,

    I bet you RBC will still be around long after you and I are gone.

  • bluetarheel21 Oct 1, 2009

    Interesting...

  • Gork Oct 1, 2009

    here's the scary part - you don't get it. He declined a bonus!? I suppose his total compensation without the bonus was barely enough to squeak by on? He could decline his annual bonus and still make more money than 99% of the people in this country.

    He will "take this institution to a new level..." -- omg. That's a Joe-the-Plumber line! We all feel better cause the master is doing well! We can continue to have our subsistence-wage, unpromising careers while we look up an beam with pride because the Princes are prospering...

    Wakeup. Take this country back while there's still anything left to take back.

  • smegma Oct 1, 2009

    i'm sure he'll be ok with his millions/billions in bonuses/stocks while we continue to struggle to find a job

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