Royal Bank of Scotland’s new boss has said complexity is getting in the way of delivering customer service and value.
Speaking to staff as she stepped up to the role as RBS chief executive, Alison Rose pledged to simplify the bank’s processes.
“We remain far too complex, we have too many processes, too much bureaucracy, too much papers sloshing around,” Ms Rose said. “It’s just too difficult to get things done.
“We’ve really got to solve that, because that is what’s getting in the way of us delivering the great customer experience and the value that we need to drive across the bank.”
Ms Rose said she would continue to reduce “bad costs” across the bank, which has been selling off assets since it was nationalised during the financial crisis.
For a short time before the crash, RBS was the biggest bank in the world after it had expanded rapidly, including by buying NatWest and Dutch bank ABN AMRO.
However, after the government was forced to step in, the bank set itself a target to refocus on safety and strength. It is now the 36th biggest in the world by assets according to data from S&P Global.
Ms Rose takes over from New Zealander Ross McEwan, whose tenure was defined by these disposals, bringing the bank’s assets from over £1 trillion when he started in 2013 to £730 billion in the first half of 2019.
The bank has reduced employee numbers from 109,000 to 66,600 over a similar period, and has withdrawn from 26 of the 28 countries where it operated, refocusing its revenue on the UK.
However, his six years in charge have not been without controversy. The bank escaped action from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) earlier this year for the way it treated small business borrowers at its Global Restructuring Group (GRG) from 2008 to 2013.
The arm was intended to help small firms which were struggling, but some said they were pushed into bankruptcy and their assets stripped by the bank.
GRG victims have been offered £125 million in compensation, but FCA boss Andrew Bailey said he did not have the remit to take action “even where the mistreatment of customers has been identified”.
Ms Rose on Friday paid tribute to the work of her predecessor.
“We are a very different bank today – one that is stronger, safer, and a real partner to our customers in all senses of the word,” she said.
“Our ambition is to be the best bank for families, businesses and communities across the UK. We should never underestimate the positive impact that we can have on our customers’ lives and the privilege and responsibility that goes with this.”
She said climate change is “one of the defining challenges of our lifetime” that will become more urgent. “We’ll be taking bold actions to play a driving role in helping the UK transition to a low carbon economy.”