"Since becoming CEO of RBS in October I have made it a priority to listen: to our staff, to public opinion, and to our customers. It has been both sobering and illuminating. It has shown me the depth of feeling toward the bank, and the scale of the changes needed to rebuild trust. It has underlined just how hard the road will be to recovery. But the commitment of our staff and the loyalty of our customers also gives me cause for optimism.
In the last five years, much has been done to defuse the bank’s legacy of excess, to clean up the culture and build a strong, stable platform for the bank. But I am acutely aware that there is still much more to do.
Organisational strategies can often be complex. For me, the next chapter for RBS is simple. It is about establishing one guiding principle that goes from the very top down to the smallest branch. Our employees who deal with customers every day understand their needs and do the best for them – this customer-focused DNA needs to run throughout the bank.
We need to remember – and then never forget – that the customer is why we are in business. We need to change our behaviour at every level to reflect this simple truth. To move from stability to renewal, we need to first address, then clean up every aspect of how we treat customers.
People have said to me that for RBS to meet its obligations following its taxpayer rescue it has to stop doing things that are self-evidently in the bank’s interest, not our customers’. I have heard the message loud and clear. RBS cannot start to claim to be a bank that always treats people fairly unless we stop doing those things that erode trust. We cannot start to claim we are renewing the Bank unless we stop shirking our responsibilities to our shareholders – principally the British taxpayer.
The lessons from the past are clear. In the rush for growth and profit, RBS forgot what banking is about. The bank valued least the people it should have valued most: its customers. We sold them products like PPI which many didn’t need, and in some cases didn’t know they had. Our customers often felt confused by language they found difficult to understand. We wasted their time with needless bureaucracy. We literally and metaphorically put them at the back of the queue.
Words are easy. Real change is much harder. Given the events of the last few years I understand why scepticism and suspicion run deep. My strategy for the bank, which I will spell out in detail later this month, will start to address the complexities of a bank this size. But the customer will be at its core.
I will set out how I intend to change the bank for the better: by starting to do additional good things for customers, and by stopping doing things that aren’t in their interest. We will reward our customers for loyalty and stop giving the best deals only to those who switch banks or apply online. We will speed up our lending decisions, and stop the bureaucracy that holds-up business growth. There will be a detailed plan alongside a timetable for change. Openness breeds trust.
There will always be debate about our share price and when the taxpayers’ stake in the bank will be sold. There will be discussion about the part bonuses should play. We will have to continue to explain the costs we are facing for past misconduct. Our first priority, however, has to be to put customer banking back in the heart and soul of RBS.
We are majority-owned by the people of this country, and have a special responsibility to help the recovery. That means taking RBS back to the basics of banking and starting to build a bank the country can truly be proud of."