One of Royal Bank of Scotland’s top bankers has urged Yorkshire businesses to shrug off the Brexit blues and look to invest to grow their operations.
Alison Rose, CEO for commercial and private banking at RBS, said Yorkshire was leading the way for job creation in the country and that the region’s firms should not mistake recent market volatility for a banking crisis, insisting it was business as usual for the company.
Ms Rose also acknowledged that the part state-owned bank still had some way to go to restore its reputation following its near collapse during the banking crisis and the heavily-criticised leadership of Fred Goodwin.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Yorkshire Post, Ms Rose insisted that RBS was able to meet customers’ needs despite the damage being wrought on the banking sector post-Brexit.
“The Brexit vote has brought uncertainty and volatility,” she said.
“Along with the uncertainty comes opportunity, we just need to be calm and supportive as we can. There had been no real change, it was a reflection of the economy as a whole and in terms of what is happening to business confidence.”
Ms Rose told The Yorkshire Post that the work to calm customer fears began the second that it became clear the electorate was to deliver a leave vote.
“After the vote from our perspective it was about getting the message across that there was never any sign of a banking crisis.
“Our balance sheet is strong and it remains the case that it is very much business as usual. Our bankers went out of their way to give our customers reassurances.
“We had to let all businesses that we work with know that the credit lines are still available. We had to provide certainty in uncertain times.”
Ms Rose had warm words and an upbeat assessment for Yorkshire’s economic prospects.
When asked about the viability of the Northern Powerhouse initiative after the post-Brexit economic and political turmoil, Ms Rose said: “The strength of business in the UK is to make sure we have successful companies across the UK. “Investing in the Northern Powerhouse and investing in business and infrastructure are all good things for business.
“When we look at regional growth prospects on our economic trackers produced by bankers everywhere it is Yorkshire where we are seeing the highest rate of job growth across the entire UK in 2015. And that’s great and the more we can support that the better.
“Our teams on the growth report really good growth. One of the reason we decided to open one of our Entrepreneurial Spark Centres in Leeds was the high proportion of news businesses and entrepreneur in the city. It is a great place to start a business.”
Ms Rose has worked at RBS since the mid 1990s and was appointed to her current role in 2014. The financial crash of 2008 was nearly fatal to the bank and it came within hours of running out of money. However Ms Rose said the bank was doing all it could to rid itself of the spectre of Goodwin et al and that its Net Promoter Scores, mechanisms for tracking customer satisfaction, were improving.
We are a very different bank today then we were then with a totally different management team. A lot of work needs to be done to restore confidence.
“Our focus in terms of improving our standing is on putting our customers first and on how we can support business.
“Are we there yet? No, but I think we can rebuild that trust customer by customer.”