Barclays retail bank chairman Ian Cheshire is stepping down after four years helping to establish and lead the UK unit of the lender, which is set for a major overhaul in the coming years after its profits collapsed amid coronavirus.

Sir Ian, 61, will be replaced by Crawford Gillies at the end of the year and leave the board in May, according to a statement on Friday. A former Bain & Co consultant and chairman of whisky and spirits group Edrington, Mr Gillies has been on Barclays’ main board since 2014 and led the remuneration committee that sets the bank’s pay policies.

“Barclays UK will need a concerted focus on its plans to position the bank to support customers against a backdrop of an economy recovering from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and a continuing low interest rate environment,” the bank said.

“With regret, Sir Ian has informed the group that he is unable to accommodate the increased time commitment and duration required to see through this programme.”

Sir Ian joined Barclays in April 2017 when it was carving out its consumer-facing operations into a separate company to ensure it could be protected from problems in its riskier investment banking operation. This was required by a “ringfencing” law introduced following the financial crisis.

He was working for Barclays on average two days a week. However, it became clear that the UK chairman would need to spend more time overseeing the retail unit after its operating income and pre-tax profit collapsed 30 per cent in the first nine months of the year due to the impact of coronavirus. Sir Ian was unable to make this time commitment.

The division “requires a full revamp, turnround and rebuild over the next five years”, according to a person familiar with the decision. Barclays has to work out how to keep retail banking profitable in a prolonged era of ultra-low interest rates, while coping with a surge in loan losses linked to the fallout from the pandemic.

“You have to rebuild the revenue line, take out costs and deal with impairments,” the person said. “It will have to be a digitally led business, less reliant on branches, and reconfigure what it offers the customer.”

A Barclays spokesman declined to comment beyond the statement.

Before Barclays, Sir Ian led Kingfisher, the owner of home improvement brand B&Q, and has also held a variety of government non-executive roles. Earlier this year, he joined the board of BT.

The board moves come after the bank reshuffled its top executive ranks in September, with one eye on succession for chief executive Jes Staley. Two of Mr Staley’s top lieutenants were given senior roles at the investment bank, a move designed to put them in competition and “test their mettle” as potential next chief executives, the Financial Times has reported.

It had been previously reported that Mr Staley would step down in the near future and a search process has been started to find his successor. However, he said alongside the bank’s quarterly results in October that he planned to stay for another few years.

On the group board, Mr Gillies will be replaced as chair of the remuneration committee by Brian Gilvary, an existing director and the former chief financial officer of BP. The lender also announced that Julia Williams, finance director of private equity group 3i, will join as a non-executive director in April.

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