RBS chief executive Stephen Hester talks exclusively to Graeme Brown about state ownership, the West Midlands' economy - and his reluctant celebrity.
The state taking control of one of Britain's biggest banks was confirmation for many that economic gloom had truly arrived - and it will not be until RBS is back in private hands that it will end.
But Stephen Hester has another means of measuring it - he will be in the business pages more and the gossip columns less.
He has become more well-known than he would like after taking over from Fred Goodwin in the Royal Bank of Scotland hotseat and becoming embroiled in the bankers' bonuses scandal.
The 51-year-old said he was uncomfortable but accepting of the limelight that comes with the position at the helm of a bank more than four-fifths owned by the taxpayer.
He admits he eagerly awaits a return to private ownership, as it would be a clear sign that he was doing his job properly.
Mr Hester also questioned whether a market exists for Vince Cable's planned business bank and praised the performance of the West Midlands economy amid tough economic times.
Speaking of his foray into the wider public gaze, Mr Hester, who gave up a bonus of up to s2.4 million for 2012 on the back of a computer meltdown at the bank, said: "To do my job properly I have to make myself more available to the public, of course through the media.
"It is something that I don't like doing. I would much rather be only on the business pages and not on the news and gossip pages but at the moment I am in a position that doesn't give me that luxury.
"The best times in my job are doing things that I have done today - being out with customers and talking about normal things.
"I want to be helping customers develop their businesses, not being in the newspapers with things to do with government support or banking scandals."
Mr Hester, a father-of-two, took over from Fred Goodwin - better known as Fred The Shred - in 2008, and has been given credit in many quarters for taking on a tough challenge.
But he remains a recognisable face in a banking sector dogged with Libor-fixing, mis-sold payment protection insurance and money laundering accusations.
He has gone on record as saying he hoped the restructuring of the Royal Bank of Scotland group, which includes NatWest, will be completed by next year. The shake-up at its investment banking division will reportedly lead to 3,800 job cuts by the end of 2013.
He said it was "on the way to being a good bank" and that the lender was on track to meet the aims of a five-year plan put in place when he joined as chief executive in October 2008.
Meanwhile, as of today, the taxpayer owns 82 per cent of the bank - and Mr Hester will be happy when that comes to an end.
He said: "Hopefully. The main reason is it means we will have done our job well.
"It is our job to save our customers and to be safe and sound, and if we do these things we will be a valuable bank again, and the measure of that will be the Government selling its shares.
"The Government doesn't want to hold its shares.
"Secondly, it is absolutely uncomfortable for the institution to be in the news in a political sense as well as in the sense of as a business. The institution will be better off when that period has passed.
"Thirdly, the near-demise of RBS in addition to stopping being independent in our own right became a symbol of the economic circumstances for Britain as a whole and the recovery and sale of the Government's shares will also be a hopeful symbol of Britain recovering."
He added: "My job is to make RBS a really good bank again - along with my 150,000 colleagues.
"If we succeed, one of the machinations will be privatisation. We aren't in control of that but what we do control is RBS becoming a really good bank again."
Despite the state being a majority shareholder, RBS is expected to be fully free of state support by the end of this year when it repays the asset protection scheme, which was put in place following the bank's taxpayer bail-out in late 2008 and early 2009.
Meanwhile, a widespread overhaul at the bank, currently ongoing, includes trimming the size of its investment banking arm and selling non-core businesses - such as RBS Aviation for nearly s5 billion earlier this year - to focus on high street services in the UK.
Mr Hester believes the UK banking sector has done much to improve itself since the Lehman Brothers collapse, but needs to continue to evolve based upon customer service.
And he believes an upturn in fortunes for banks will be good news for the wider economy.
"What was made very clear in the financial crisis is banks are, in effect, a mirror of the economy that they serve," he said.
"If the economy is strong then banks will be strong and if the economy is weak then banks cannot be successful.
"At the moment the economy is flat - it is not going down or up - so banks are treading water a bit."