RBS Seeks Trust As Six-Year Losses Top £46bn
Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has announced plans to help restore customer trust after reporting its deepest annual losses since the year it was bailed out by the taxpayer.
The loss for its last financial year of £8.2bn included previously-announced provisions for mistakes of the past, which continue to haunt RBS and the rest of the UK banking industry in the wake of the financial crisis.
It took the bank's total losses, which are attributable to shareholders, to a staggering £46bn over the past six years.
Ross McEwan, RBS chief executive, said the pre-tax loss for 2013 was "sobering" and "huge" and promised reform would turn around not only its financial fortunes but also its treatment of the customer following a number of high profile IT problems, misconduct fines and mis-selling.
Its share price fell 4% when the FTSE 100 opened for business and later extended those losses beyond 8% in mid-morning trade, wiping almost £2bn off its value.
The bank confirmed new cost savings of £5bn over the next four years - reported earlier by Sky News - with its focus shifting back to the UK and further away from investment banking.
It was its investment arm that accounted for most of its bonus pool for 2013, which had shrunk by 15% to £576m, though the scene was set for further reductions in later years as RBS said it would concentrate on serving personal and business customers.
The bank also announced it was lifting its proportion of UK assets to 80% of its business from 60% under pressure from the Government, which still holds a stake of over 80% in the lender, to concentrate on supporting the UK's economic recovery.
Mr McEwan said his revival plan would make the bank "smaller, simpler and smarter," shrinking from seven divisions to three.
He has not put a figure on the potential number of job losses his plans would entail.
The overhaul of its service and products for retail customers will see the Group outlaw different product rates for branch and online customers from mid-March.
Among its other pledges were bans on teaser rates for any product and an end to 0% balance transfers for credit cards.
The revival plan is designed to help get the bank into a position where it could return to private hands - likely to be some years away.
The Business Secretary Vince Cable said of it: "I am pleased by the overall direction of travel of RBS, getting away from the disastrous obsession with scale and risky casino banking of the Fred Goodwin years, focusing instead on British customers and British business.
"But British taxpayers are still paying for the terrible mistakes of the past and I see no sign yet of a turnaround in the continuing decline of net lending to small business.
"The public will simply not understand why big bonuses and large salaries continue to be paid out by a loss-making public enterprise, still underperforming in many areas.
"The smaller bonus pool is due to the bank's US-based investment banking operations, which will soon be sold.
"If RBS is to become the sensible, boring bank envisaged by the CEO, the bonus culture will have to go."
Mr McEwan defended the bonus handouts, saying: "We need to keep people engaged in the job they do all day every day - from the high street to those in our markets business in the United States.
"We need to pay these people fairly in the marketplace to do the job."
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