In 1985 Williams & Glyn's Bank merged with The Royal Bank of Scotland to create Britain's first truly nationwide high street bank. In the same year, the Royal Bank launched Direct Line, a new departure in motor insurance which became a major success, recognised throughout Britain thanks to its adverts featuring a red telephone on wheels.
In the early 1990s the corporate structure of RBS underwent a major reorganisation. The bank refocused on its core business of retail banking, and set about building a platform for future growth. In 1993 it acquired the Edinburgh-based private bank Adam & Company.
In 1994 the bank's telephone banking service was launched, and in 1997 the bank launched Britain's first fully-fledged internet banking system.
Meanwhile a transformational event was just around the corner. In 2000 RBS announced the acquisition of National Westminster Bank, in a £21bn deal – at that time the largest takeover in British banking history.
RBS faced new challenges as it sought to enter emerging international markets. Globalisation meant that the power balance of worldwide economies was changing. In 2007, RBS was part of a consortium which acquired the Dutch bank ABN AMRO. Soon afterwards, a crisis in global financial markets and deteriorating economic conditions across the world weakened many financial services organisations. This situation was made worse for RBS by strategic decisions that were subsequently shown to be bad mistakes. RBS became highly vulnerable to the downturn and as a consequence became part owned by the government in 2008. Since that time RBS has worked to rebuild resilience, trust and shareholder value.