Drive for ‘smarter’ RBS may end local branches

THE new chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland has said significant changes will be made to the business, in a speech hinting at a move away from branch banking.

Royal Bank of Scotland headquarters in Edinburgh.

Transactions at RBS branches are down almost 30 per cent since 2010 and the bank needs to offer “smarter solutions” for its customers, Ross McEwan said.

In one of his first speeches in the role, Mr McEwan said RBS has to confront “seismic shifts” in banking.

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The use of mobile apps and “self-service centres” can increasingly meet the needs of customers, he said in an address to delegates at a business conference at the Scottish Parliament.

A review of the entire RBS business is under way and fundamental changes have to be made, including embracing new technology and modernising customer service, he said.

The bank expects to have three million customers using its mobile banking app by the end of the year, Mr McEwan said.

“At the same time, we are seeing less and less activity in our branches. Since 2010, branch transactions are down almost 30 per cent. The world is changing dramatically and as we consider the radical change we have to make, we need to prepare for a future based on being there for customers on their terms and not on our terms.”

RBS will spend £30m on “new-generation cash machines”, offering a broader range of everyday banking facilities where and when customers want them, he said.

The bank should also look at putting 24-hour self-service centres in places such as Waverley railway station in Edinburgh, he said.

“These machines can address the vast majority of the day-to-day banking needs of customers. Then instead of answering balance inquiries at a branch, branches should be the places where people go because they need advice, they need a mortgage, they need actual help with their financial position.”

The review is focused on returning to the needs of the customer, he said, adding that he is “not nostalgic” about banking.

“We need to harness the new-found power of the consumer, embrace the technologies that are enabling it and make ourselves simple and easy to do business with. That is not the reality of banking today,” Mr McEwan said.

No compromise would be made on the “safety and soundness” that he said his predecessor Stephen Hester, who is from North Yorkshire, built since the economic crisis began in 2008.