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Top RBS lawyer resigns as John Collins makes surprise defection to Santander

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) general counsel John Collins has resigned just 11 months after becoming the top lawyer at the leading High Street bank.

Collins had replaced retiring Chris Campbell as general counsel at RBS on 1 January 2015 but has resigned less than a year into the role to join Santander UK as director of legal, compliance, regulatory affairs and anti-money laundering. Campbell had served as RBS’s top lawyer for five years, during which time Collins was seen as his heir apparent. Collins is expected to serve a six-month notice period.

An RBS spokesperson confirmed Collins’ resignation. One RBS lawyer told Legal Business: ‘There is no obvious replacement at RBS and John’s a loss as he’s trusted, very capable and a good guy.’

The lawyer added that Collins ‘is close to Nathan Bostock as he’s ex-RBS’. Bostock, who quit his finance director post at RBS at the end of 2013, has since risen to become head of Santander UK.

Collins runs a team of over 400 lawyers at RBS and is well regarded by the bank’s management. Since becoming GC, he has overseen the $2bn settlement of US litigation against nine banks including RBS, HSBC and Barclays over alleged losses caused by the rigging of foreign exchange markets.

Collins had served as deputy GC following a string of senior roles at the bank. He arrived at RBS from Dutch-based banking group ABN Amro, which was acquired in 2007 by a consortium made up of RBS, Santander and Fortis.

Deputy counsel at ABN Amro at the time of the takeover, Collins became one of RBS’ key figures in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Collins spearheaded the sell-off of assets to reduce RBS’ debt pile after its highly leveraged takeover of ABN. He started his career at Wilde Sapte in 1990 before moving in-house at Citibank in 1995.

RBS has seen a series of senior legal departures recently, with deputy GC Rushad Abadan set to join insurer Standard Life as its GC in the New Year. The British banking giant also lost its EMEA head of financial crime Carolina Garces-Monterrubio to HSBC at the start of the year. The resignation comes as RBS is set to complete a scheduled panel review before the end of 2015.

For our analysis of the contentious issues facing in-house teams at major financial institutions, read The end of the tunnel – litigation and regulatory challenges in financial services (£)