Business

RBC's top executive stepping down

Posted October 1, 2009 10:48 a.m. EDT
Updated October 1, 2009 9:29 p.m. EDT

— 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.”

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."