RBS to invest £700m in push to improve retail branches

City A.M. Reporter
STATE-BACKED Royal Bank of Scotland is to invest £700m between 2013 and 2016 in improving its branches, it said yesterday, part of a continuing shift in focus towards its domestic lending business.

The bank, which owns NatWest and Ulster Bank, said the money would be spent on refurbishments across its network of 2,066 branches and initiatives to improve services to its 15.4m customers within the UK.

RBS, 82 per cent-owned by the government, said it would improve complaints handling, allow customers to open accounts more quickly, simplify the processing of mortgages and provide new self-service machines in its branches.

The bank is concentrating on its routine retail operations having cut back its huge investment banking business since it was rescued with a £45.5bn state bailout following the 2008 financial crisis.

The new initiatives are part of a strategy set by Ross McEwan, who was appointed head of RBS's UK retail business in August last year, joining from Commonwealth Bank of Australia, where he was in charge of retail banking services for five years. In a presentation to investors, McEwan said he planned to make RBS the best retail bank in Britain.

“There’s a big space there for it. I’ve not met anyone who believes there’s great retail banking in the UK,” he said.

McEwan said the bank will invest in rejuvenating its NatWest brand, which accounts for 80 per cent of its business, and in re-building its RBS brand and growing market share in Scotland.