Royal Bank of Scotland is searching for a new chief executive after Ross McEwan said he was resigning, signalling a fresh start as it heads for full private ownership after a state bailout. 

New Zealand-born McEwan has led RBS, which owns Ulster Bank here, since October 2013.

He has a 12-month notice period and will remain in his position until a successor has been appointed and an orderly handover has taken place, the bank said today. 

It is the second change in RBS's senior executive team in fewer than six months following the appointment of Katie Murray as the bank's chief financial officer in December last year. 

The date of McEwan's departure will be confirmed in due course and Alison Rose, the bank's CEO of Commercial & Private Banking, is seen as one of the favourites to succeed him. 

Rose's accession would make RBS the first bank in Britain to have two women in its most senior positions at the same time. 

"After over five and a half very rewarding years, and with the bank in a much stronger financial position it is time for me to step down as CEO," McEwan said in a statement. 

Some analysts suggested his departure was well timed, just months before Brexit and with dark clouds looming over the UK housing market. 

While broadly liked and respected among RBS's institutional investors, McEwan's tenure has not been without drama. 

Despite being one of the lowest in Britain's banking sector, salary and bonus payments earned by the 61-year old have attracted considerable scrutiny, particularly in the years before RBS returned to profit.

Under his watch, the bank also shelled out $4.9 billion to settle its largest-ever regulatory penalty for misselling of high-risk mortgage backed securities between 2005 and 2008, when it was one of the world's biggest banks by assets. 

But a tight rein on costs has seen the lender swing back to the black and restore dividends to investors. 

RBS has also managed to amass hundreds of millions of pounds in excess capital it hopes to deploy in buying back shares from the UK government this year. 

RBS, currently more than 62% owned by the UK taxpayer, is hosting its annual meeting today.

The bank was bailed out by the UK government to the tune of £45 billion in 2008 and has spent the last decade cutting costs, restructuring its balance sheet, and refocusing on core domestic UK business and consumer lending.