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RBS: ‘Determined to earn back your trust’

RBS sign

RBS reversed its decision to restrict basic bank account customers’ free use of ATMs. In this guest post, chief executive Ross McEwan tells us what the bank is doing for its customers and asks for your feedback…

Banks don’t often admit it when they get things wrong. However, I’ll hold my hands up and say that when it came to limiting access to ATMs for our basic bank account customers back in 2011, that’s exactly what we did.

We said at the time that the cost of allowing these customers to use other banks’ ATMs was too high for us. The financial case for this decision hasn’t changed but we looked again at this recently and decided it just wasn’t right. You don’t make life harder for those customers who need our help most.

We are a bank that is determined to earn back trust of our customers. We know that we have to make banking easier for all of our customers, particularly those with stretched finances who work hard to make ends meet.

This is why last week we announced that we’re reversing our policy, so that from the end of this year, all one million of our RBS and NatWest basic bank account customers will be able to use any Link ATM across the UK.

This will make a huge difference to those who have struggled to access their money.

Rewarding customer loyalty

Removing ATM restrictions is just one of the many steps we’re taking to earn back trust. Across this bank, we’ve made a number of commitments to customers to make banking easier for them, which I announced back in February.

These include no longer offering deals and products to new customers that we’re not prepared to offer our existing customers. They may encourage people to switch banks but they send a terrible message to our loyal customers and this practice has no place at RBS and NatWest.

We have also banned teaser rates, including zero per cent balance transfers in our credit card business. This may be the industry norm, but they trap people into debts they cannot afford and at RBS and NatWest, we don’t feel comfortable that this is the right thing for our customers.

We’ve also stopped offering different rates to customers who apply online, in branch or by phoning our call centres. Customers should be able to bank with us in the way that’s best for them.

These are just a few examples of ways we’re doing the right thing to earn back our customers’ trust. But I want to hear from you on what else you think we should be doing to make banking easier for you as customers? What should we be doing more of and what could we change?

Which? Conversation provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Ross McEwan, RBS chief executive. All opinions expressed here are Ross’s own, not necessarily those of Which?.


I think this rather misses the point. I don’t bank with RBS, but have never had a problem with my current account (except when one bank closed an account against instructions, but that was quickly and amicably resolved).
My lack of trust is on three fronts.
Sharp practice (dishonesty?) in, for example, mis-selling PPI and business interest rate contracts.
Incompetence – in buying other banks, in appalling investment decisions, manipulating markets in their own interests
Rewards – paying themselves ludicrous amounts of money, even after failure, on the pretext they might go elsewhere otherwise.
Start to address these, and similar, issues and trust might eventually return, but not by simply allowing free access to cash machines.

Totally agree Malcolm. Posturing with gestures doesn’t flatter.

Ian Fraser says:
19 June 2014

Trouble is the sharp practise that Malcolm R refers seems to remain prevalant across the bank (e.g. in its foot dragging ovver IRHP compensation, and its continued despicable persecution, via the courts and other means, of a great many business borrowers who have done absolutely nothing wrong.

Hugh Scullion says:
20 June 2014

Ian do you think that when RBS raised £12,000,000,000 on the S.E. the directors hoodwinked investors? If the directors acted honestly when they did this would you agree they at best criminally ignorant incompetent and unfit to run a company? Can you find an argument that expplains how you can be that incompetent you should escape prosecution. Why after the bailout was Fred Goodwin given a huge pension and not disbarred from running a company?

Ian Fraser says:
20 June 2014

Hugh of course they did! And of course the directors were c incompetent. It seems self evident they lied about the bank’s financial strength in the rights issue prospectus – which means Deloitte, Linklaters, UBS, Merrill lynch and Goldman Sachs are also guilty of a massive deception. The ex directors and the bank can expect to be found out in the current ‘group action’ against RBS – the largest ever to be heard in the UK – in which the bank is being sued by at least 5,000 of its own staff and all bar five of the 25 largest institutional investors in the bank at that time (2008). Thank God for English justice, eh!

JohnR says:
21 June 2014

Actually Ian, RBS has it’s registered address in Scotland, which would come under Scots Law, which in some circumstances is fairer than English Law!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ian Fraser says:
21 June 2014

You are right there. Not sure why they opted to sue in England & Wales.

John Kidd says:
19 June 2014

The review of Interest Rate Products has been conducted at a snails pace, fails to keep people informed. Mis represents facts that they have available, mis informed in regards to time frames, The fca said the following and i quote “I would think that end to end, 12 weeks from entering the review process would be more than achievable” to date if you look at my case 43 weeks according to me and still not finalised. (39 according to rbs) i know of others who have yet to obtain a redress offer.

John Kidd says:
19 June 2014

Don’t get me started on consequential Loss Claims, and legal fees in the review guidance according to the fca you do not need to utilize claim companies. OK

But the people judging your case are the very institutions who have mis sold so logically most use solicitors. These costs will not usually be refunded. so you have to sign litigation rights away in accepting a redress offer. So legal firms are must if you have been mis sold you should therefore be allowed to claim, legal fees back. Not according to rbs.

Johnson says:
20 June 2014

“Banks don’t often admit it when they get things wrong”

This is the first thing to put right!

Then if you do admit it – put it right properly!

Do not do as you have done with interest rate swap miss-selling – by just employing your own accountants – call them independent reviewers and then spend all of your energy trying to limit your liability by forcing alternative products instead of refunding the customers money!

Steve Clayton says:
20 June 2014

Hi Ian,

What date does the group action v the RBS hit the courts ?

Great book by the way, absolutely scandalous what went on especially ref the cash call at the time and is what is going currently on with all IRHP issues and the lack of redress.

We were lucky to get a full refund from the bank ref the swaps…..others in exactly the same boat have ended up swap for a swap decisions. How the bank gets away with it is terrible…shame on the FCA.

Ian Fraser says:
20 June 2014

Goodwin is not expected at the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand until 2016 – as you may know, he will be asked to drink a bottle of Tabasco on arrival


smike says:
21 June 2014

The comments made so far are of course warranted, and encompass by no means all of the reprehensible practices of the Banking industry of the last generation, accelerated by the misguided Government relaxation of controls a decade ago, and the abysmal performance of the regulators.

However, some credit is due. Each of the the measures that McEwan is taking are of real benefit to customers, taken at some immediate cost to the Bank’s market share and bottom line.

It will take another generation before Banks are rehabilitated, even if – and it’s a big if – they hereafter behave with complete probity. It is appropriate however to acknowledge and welcome this RBS small start.

John Kidd says:
21 June 2014

How do you judge most things in life by past performance rbs’s recent past performance in relation to so many many situations and i am not naming them all GRG IRHPs Libor PPI shames them

Put right past mistakes with honor stop fighting tooth and nail.

Yes legitimately protect your position.

Stand up in front of the cameras admit that you have done wrong where you have and apologise .

That is the way to make a start.

Ian Fraser says:
21 June 2014

I entirely agree, John.

Unless it owns up to past mistakes, provides a credible and meaningful apology, and fairly and even-handedly compensates its innumerable victims, there’s not cat in hell’s chance of RBS rehabilitating itself.

Anything else will be posturing.

It is a good start but there is a long way to go.

The ‘purchase’ of ABNAmro apart, the other issues are endemic amongst the banking fraternity and cannot be fixed by one bank alone.

Simplification, as already evidenced, is one way to make a good start. I suggest one of the areas to be tackled next is the vast plethora of savings products and the multitude of interest rates quoted.

The last three communications I have had from RBS, still under the cynical strapline of ‘Here for You’ were about the following –
1 removing the cheque book facility on a particular account
2 reducing benefits on a package account
3 reducing interest rates on a saving account, despite no movement in Bof E base rate
Here to Exploit You might be a more accurate strapline based on these and other examples.
The recent ‘initiatives’ are all marketing double talk –
1 removing interest rate free periods on credit cards = removing a benefit and trying to dress it up something that is good for customers
2 removing teaser interest rates = reducing all interest rates offered by RBS to the lowest common denominator
3 allowing free cashline withdrawals for all accounts = just rectifying a totally wrong money grabbing decision made previously
When RBS starts to address the bonus and profit without integrity culture with tangible and sustainable initiatives then we might start to think things have changed and consider trusting them again.
However that time is still sometime off – apart from thinking its all right to pay staff bonuses, when they’re still not paying the owners / shareholders any return, on the basis of you have to pay high to get the best people – how about Fred Goodwin? – you would have thought that after this extraordinary demonstration of the fallacy of this cause and effect assumption things might change, but apparently not yet.

Hugh Scullion says:
21 June 2014

If banks are charging one another for using their atm’s RBS with pne of the biggest atm estates was making money rather than losing money when people used their atm’s. So by banning their customers from using other bank’s atms they wanted to have it both ways. The change in atitude is more than likely because other banks might do the same. This is not a change because they want to please their customers at all.

Jennifer says:
22 June 2014

One big step would be to make it possible to phone your local branch and speak to people who know you and your account when there’s a problem. We’re people, not numbers.

JohnR says:
27 June 2014

My local branch has just closed after 60 years of service to the community – so much for `Here For You` as they say in their advertising. Well RBS, it is `not here for you` from me as I am transferring ALL my banking to a competitor, and have already started the process. RBS and others have certainly not learnt from their `mistakes` in 2008, and the UK government has not `shaken up` the industry as promised!

Simon Price says:
22 July 2014

Appalling decision making at the top but on a day to day basis dealing with individuals cannot fault RBS, very good personal service. Such a great shame the good service at customer level didn’t extend upwards. What were they thinking about? Why didn’t corporate governance extend to the bosses?

Hugh Scullion says:
22 July 2014

Sullivan and Sach criticised by parliament for being obtuse. This is polite speak for lying b******s.

H L Mills says:
18 August 2014

For 27 years my husband and I banked with National Westminster Bank and were Private Banking Customers, paying a fee of £19.95 a month for the use of a Personal Relationship Manager. When we lost our way we asked that Manager for help in the re-organisation of our finances, as advertised on the NatWest website. We had the door firmly slammed in our faces and the resulting action by NatWest lead to the loss of my job. 3 years on I am still fighting for justice. The Ombudsman Service failed to uphold our complaint but was advised to report NatWest to the Financial Conduct Authority which I have done. Communication with NatWest has now come to a complete halt and letter after letter has been ignored. I was advised to write to Ross McEwan and asked a member of staff at a NatWest branch for the correct address. This letter has now been returned undelivered as address incorrect. This has been the last straw. I am now going to write to Mr McEwan via my local MP. The British Government own RBS who own National Westminster Bank. Perhaps they can question Mr McEwan on my behalf and get him to justify the appalling behaviour of his bank and justify the bonuses being paid to staff who treat their customers so badly. After that it will be BBC Watchdog or the Rip Off Britain Team, or it may be both. RBS and NatWest will not get away with this and I will fight to the death. Its been a tough mountain to climb but I am not giving up until I reach the top and get the compensation I deserve. & I say to Mr McEwan. You want to make RBS a better bank good luck. You have a hell of a long way to go before you regain the trust. The way your bank has handled my case has been a disgrace and in no way will I ever recommend your bank to anyone ever again.