RBS mis-selling charges and losses rise

TAXPAYER-backed Royal Bank of Scotland racked up more than £300m worth of charges today as it counted the cost of an IT meltdown and two mis-selling scandals.

The 80 per cent state-owned bank set aside £125m for dealing with the fallout of the computer glitch that locked many RBS, NatWest and Ulster Bank customers out of their accounts.

The group took a £135m hit to cover the cost of payment protection insurance (PPI) mis-selling, bringing its total bill to £1.3bn, while it took a £50m charge to compensate small businesses that were mis-sold complex interest rate swaps.

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The mounting provisions came as the bank, which has 30 million customers worldwide, unveiled a pre-tax loss of £1.5bn, compared to a £794m loss last year.

But RBS boss Stephen Hester said: “We have continued to make the bank safer and stronger as we clean up problems of the past.”

RBS said it had dismissed a number of employees for misconduct as a result of investigations into the fixing of Libor - the interbank lending rate at the heart of the most recent scandal to rock the banking industry.

The group said it continued to co-operate with investigations but, like Lloyds Banking Group and HSBC before it, said it was not possible to measure the impact on the bank, including the timing and amount of fines or settlements.

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The IT glitch that hit RBS group systems on June 19 is being investigated by an independent external counsel with the assistance of third party advisors.

The group said it has agreed to reimburse customers for any loss suffered as a result of the incident and warned additional costs may arise once all redress and business disruption items are clear. A further update will be given in the third quarter.

Mr Hester, who waived his 2012 annual bonus in light of the IT fiasco, said recent mistakes had seen the banking sector’s reputation “fall to new lows”.

He said: “We are in a chastening period for the banking industry. The consequences of the sector’s past over-expansion are still being accounted for, probably with some way still to go.

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“The mistakes and vulnerabilities carried over from that period are both financial and cultural.”

Looking within the results, the group revealed a 14 per cent slide in total income to £13.6bn while its core banking operations saw a 19 per cent drop in operating profits to £3.2bn.

Staff costs were four per cent lower in the period, RBS said, with employee numbers down by 5,700, driven by cuts in its markets and international banking arm.

The bank revealed a near 40 per cent slide in its bad debt charges to £2.6bn while total exposure to the troubled eurozone fell eight per cent to £218bn.

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The group said its plans to float insurance arm Direct Line on the stock exchange in the second half of this year remain on track.

Direct Line saw a six per cent rise in operating profit to £219m in the period, with significantly improved claims levels, despite the impact of more severe weather.

The bank said gross mortgage lending in the first half of the year came to £7.7bn, with net new lending of more than £3bn.

Gross new lending to first-time buyers was up 26 per cent while gross new lending to UK non-financial businesses totalled £41.5bn, of which £19.2bn was to small-business customers.