Royal Bank of Scotland Group Chief Executive Stephen Hester is leaving the company later this year.

RBS has begun the search for a successor, it said Wednesday. Hester, who has led RBS since October 2008, will leave the company in December.

The change is intended to give the next CEO time to prepare for the bank's privatization. The United Kingdom may soon sell the 81% stake in RBS it took in the 2008 rescue of the bank, and RBS wants a CEO who can make a long-term commitment. Hester "was unable to make that open-ended commitment following five years in the job already," the news release said.

"We are now in a position where the government can begin to prepare for privatizing RBS. While leading that process would be the end of an incredible chapter for me, ideally for the company it should be led by someone at the beginning of their journey," said Hester in the release.

Hester will be paid 1.6 million pounds ($2.5 million), on his departure, and will receive stock awards worth between 3 and 4 million pounds ($4.7 million to $6.3 million). Chairman Philip Hampton will lead the search for Hester's successor.

Hester oversaw a major restructuring at RBS, including a trillion-dollar reduction of its balance sheet following the financial crisis.

Last month, RBS announced that Ellen Alemany is stepping down as CEO of its U.S. subsidiary, Citizens Financial Group, on Oct. 1 and will be replaced by Bruce Van Saun, the parent company's group finance director.

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