November 1, 2019 / 11:55 AM / 18 days ago

Rose pledges to simplify RBS as she becomes first female CEO at a top UK bank

LONDON (Reuters) - Royal Bank of Scotland’s (RBS.L) new CEO Alison Rose told staff on her first day in the role that she plans to simplify the lender, suggesting further restructuring of the group may be imminent.

Royal Bank of Scotland's CEO Alison Rose poses in an undated Handout photograph provided to Reuters, November 1, 2019. Royal Bank of Scotland via REUTERS.

Rose, an RBS veteran, is the first woman to lead one of Britain’s big four banks. In a memo to staff on Friday, she laid out plans to build a more “purposeful bank” that rebuilt trust with customers as well as making money for shareholders.

RBS’s third quarter results last week highlighted the challenges Rose faces, including tackling poor trading at its minnow investment bank NatWest Markets, which shareholders are pressing to be further cut back.

In her memo, Rose announced that RBS’s commercial and private banking division, which she used to head up, would be split in two, with Paul Thwaite promoted to chief executive of the commercial bank, while Peter Flavel is confirmed as chief executive of private banking, including Coutts.

RBS has already been radically downsized since its near-collapse in the financial crisis forced a 45 billion pound ($58 billion) taxpayer bailout.

“With a defining period for the banking sector ahead of us, we will deliver a dynamic, confident response to the challenges we face,” Rose said.

She is expected to outline her new strategy in February.

Rose inherits a smaller bank that returned to profit and paying a dividend under predecessor Ross McEwan, who will become CEO of National Australia Bank (NAB.AX) in December.

Rose, however, will have to improve RBS’s damaged reputation after a string of scandals, with a further 900 million pound charge for mis-selling loan insurance as part of a wider industry scandal also denting its numbers.

Britain’s biggest union Unite wrote to Rose ahead of her first day calling on her to deliver “meaningful change” and outlining staff concerns about job security and conditions.

In her message to staff Rose said she would ensure top bosses communicated better with employees and that the bank invested more in training.

She added: “Shared success also means playing our part to help tackle the problems that can hold the country back, like the threat from climate change, a lack of financial confidence and barriers to enterprise and growth. These pillars will form part of our strategy.”

RBS is looking to boost new revenue streams in the face of intense competition in retail banking, including with a foray back into global payment services with Mastercard-backed merchant services business Pollinate, nearly a decade after it was forced to sell Worldpay in 2010.

Reporting by Iain Withers; Editing by Susan Fenton

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