RBS boss says behaviour must change ‘at every level’

McEwan is tasked with reviving UK bank’s reputation after its £45 billion bailout

Ross McEwan, chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland Group (left) and George Osborne, UK chancellor of the exchequer, walk through the lobby of the company’s headquarters in London. Photographer: Tom Parkes/Royal Bank of Scotland Plc via Bloomberg

Ross McEwan, chief executive of Royal Bank of Scotland Group (left) and George Osborne, UK chancellor of the exchequer, walk through the lobby of the company’s headquarters in London. Photographer: Tom Parkes/Royal Bank of Scotland Plc via Bloomberg

Mon, Feb 10, 2014, 16:02

State-backed British lender Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) needs to change its behaviour “at every level” to restore trust and faces a hard road to recovery, its new boss said today.

Ross McEwan joined RBS in 2012 and took over as chief executive in October with the task of reviving the bank and its reputation after its £45 billion bailout by the British taxpayer and scandals such as the mis-selling of loan insurance, for which it has set aside £3 billion to compensate customers.

“To move from stability to renewal, we need to first address and then clean up every aspect of how we treat customers,” Mr McEwan said in a commentary in The Guardian newspaper on Monday. “We need to change our behaviour at every level to reflect this simple truth.”

New Zealander McEwan said that feedback from staff, the public and customers since his arrival at the bank 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.”

RBS last month said it would take a £3.1 billion hit to cover the cost of more past misdeeds, which is expected to leave it with a 2013 loss of up to £8 billion - further evidence of the scale of the challenge Mr McEwan faces as he tries to revive the bank and allow the government to start selling its 81 per cent stake.

Mr McEwan is due to unveil his strategic plan alongside annual results on Feb. 27. “My strategy for the bank, which I will spell out in detail later this month, will start to address the complexities and operational issues of a bank this size. But the customer will be at its core,” he said.

Mr McEwan said he plans to reward customers for loyalty and stop giving the best deals to people who switch banks or apply online, and said that it will speed up lending decisions and rid itself of the bureaucracy that holds up business growth. The strategic update will include a detailed plan alongside a timetable for change, as well as discussion about the part bonuses should play, he said.