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|Alma mater||Glasgow University|
|Employer||CEO of Tesco Bank|
|Known for||Former Chief Exec RBS NatWest Retail Banking|
After achieving a first in Mathematics at Glasgow University, Higgins began his career in 1983 at Standard Life in Edinburgh initially, qualifying as an actuary in a then record 2½ years, before becoming an investment manager.
He left in 1997 for the Royal Bank of Scotland where he became Chief Executive of Retail Banking and was involved in setting up Tesco Personal Finance (a 50:50 joint venture with Tesco). He was part of the team (alongside Fred Goodwin and George Mathewson) that acquired and integrated NatWest following in 2000. At the time of his departure from RBS at the end of 2005 he was Chief Executive of the Retail Bank which covered both the RBS and NatWest brands.
In January 2006 he took the helm of the Retail Business at HBOS. However he departed at the end of 2007. During his tenure, Higgins' conservative mortgage strategy led to a fall in the share of the market for new mortgage lending from 16% to 8% though on announcing Higgins' resignation Hornby explicitly denied any link. Analysts were less kind at the time. "Benny Higgins is carrying the can ... for the mortgage debacle in the first half of this year," another said. "He was supposed to be the next big thing for HBOS, coming in from RBS to shake up the HBOS business. Obviously he's been given his marching orders." As events unfolded, however, even his critics have conceded that he was right and had the courage of his convictions. One journalist said, "He must be the only banker who was fired for being right!"
After a short sabbatical, Higgins returned to banking, taking the position of CEO of Tesco Personal Finance later renamed to Tesco Bank following Tesco's buying out of RBS's share of their 50:50 joint venture on 28 July 2008.
He was a keen footballer and played for Glasgow Celtic, captaining the youth team.
He has a strong literary bent, his interest in poetry attracted the admiration of many, including Maya Angelou, the guest of honour at an RBS event in 2003 when, before introducing the American poet, he recited with no notes "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings", the poem which is also the title of her biography. Whilst at conferences and events over the years, Higgins will often be heard reciting poetry or quoting from books. He has many favourite authors but he quotes his favourite book being The Great Gatsby. In February 2007, Higgins used his literacy prowess to ruthless effect at a HBOS investor annual results event. After Peter Cummings his then corporate counterpart told analysts he felt "very, very optimistic" about the future. Higgins told a story about Pollyanna, the over-optimistic girl who ended up falling out of a tree.
In 2009, Higgins wrote and launched a book called 'Putting Tesco into Banking and Insurance' In that book he set out his vision.. "Our vision is to become a natural provider of financial services for Tesco Customers". The book is an articulation of what Tesco Bank wishes to accomplish and a description of the culture Higgins wants to create. A culture that is defined by what is rewarded and what is abhorred. A culture determined and fine tuned not by words, but the cumulative impact of decisions. A culture that is underpinned by the Tesco Values; 'No one tries harder for customers' and 'Treat people how you wish to be treated'
Higgins believes that it is within Tesco Bank's gift to achieve something special. "It is our opportunity to apply simple yet powerful principles that put customers first."
He is well on the way to demonstrating that he will be relentless in his ambition of creating and nurturing the right ethos and leadership and he uses the final stanza of poem "The Road Not Taken" written by the American poet Robert Frost as way of describing to his staff the sentiment they will enjoy if they navigate the path of choice to fulfil the potential of the bank.
- "Movers and Shakers". Business.timesonline.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-11-07. (subscription required)
- "A breath of fresh air for HBOS's boardroom". Telegraph. 2006-01-06. Retrieved 2016-11-07.
- "Business | HBOS retail business gets revamp". BBC News. 2007-08-10. Retrieved 2016-11-07.
- Patrick Collinson. "HBOS retail chief in surprise departure | Business". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-11-07.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-09-17. Retrieved 2009-12-25.
- "Interview: Benny Higgins - Tesco banks on this charming man". The Scotsman. Retrieved 2016-11-07.