RBS to rebrand as NatWest as it distances itself from the financial crisis

RBSs new chief executive Alison Rose
RBSs new chief executive Alison Rose
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The Royal Bank of Scotland is to change its name to NatWest Group in a bid to distance the bank’s image from its £45bn bailout during the 2008 financial crisis.

The lender said 80 per cent of its customers bank with the NatWest brand, rather than through RBS branches, adding that it will have no impact on customers or staff.

RBS’s new chief executive Alison Rose, the first woman to lead one of Britain’s major banks, has unveiled a new strategy for the taxpayer-backed bank, including radically cutting back the size of its loss-making investment bank.

The new strategy brings to an end a name that has been in existence since the bank's foundation in 1727.

RBS chairman Howard Davies said: "The essential reason for this is as the bank has evolved from the financial crisis and the bailout, we have focused on the NatWest brand.
"We have exited a lot of the international business which were not profitable. That was branded RBS and that's gone.
"It really makes no sense for us to continue to be called RBS. It was designed for a global group of brands, which we no longer are."

He added the registered office will remain in Edinburgh, with no plans for "unscrewing any brass plaques at this point".

Although a second independence referendum in Scotland could change this, he said.

The decision comes as Ms Rose unveiled a 5p-a-share special dividend, although the full-year dividend was cut from 3.5p to 3p.

It means the bank's biggest shareholder - the Government - will receive a payout of nearly £600m. Along with the interim dividend paid out earlier this year, it means the taxpayer has been handed £1.7bn so far this year.

RBS announced a pre-tax profit of £4.2bn in 2019 - up 26 per cent from £3.4bn in 2018.

Ms Rose also announced cost cuts of £250m, following the closure of 215 branches over the year.

The next step is to create a "purpose-led" bank, aligning executive pay with a range of targets linked to long-term bonuses. The targets include creating 50,000 new businesses by 2023, helping to create 500,000 jobs.

Ms Rose refused to be drawn on any potential job losses in the year ahead.

She said: "Any job cuts we will speak to our colleagues first so I won't be making any comment about that.
"We have over 800 branches, our mobile banks and access to the Post Office. We think that's about the right shape and size, but we will continue to evolve that. You will see the continuing changing of customers."

The bank also revealed plans to teach customers how to save and have a "climate-positive" operation by 2025, with a halving the climate impact of financing activity.

The bank is keen to shake off its past, and this is the latest cosmetic change made by bosses to remove the stigma attached to the bank nearly collapsing during the financial crisis.

Eight years ago it recalibrated its shares to make them look more impressive - jumping from 20p to 200p overnight, although the value of the shares remained the same.

Analyst Gary Greenwood at Shore Capital said: "It is now more than a decade since the financial crisis and, despite completing a lot of heavy lifting, RBS is still in restructuring mode.

"While the continued return of surplus capital provides some support to the investment case, we think the underlying story of the group remains lacklustre."