Royal Bank of Scotland

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The Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) is an international banking and financial services company headquartered in Edinburgh. One of the largest financial services groups in the world, the RBS Group operates in the United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East, the Americas and Asia, with over 30 million customers worldwide.


Founded in 1727, RBS was not only the biggest company in Scotland,[1] but the second largest bank in the UK and Europe after HSBC, ranking sixth in the world. Seventy per cent of the top 100 companies in Europe bank with RBS.[2] It is in the top five of all companies listed on the UK stock exchange.

In 2008 RBS bought Dutch bank ABN Amro. In Feb 2009, RBS was forced to admit that the acquisition of ABN Amro helped towards the bank’s near demise, although it could not put a figure on how much RBS will have to write down to cover losses made.

In March 2000, The Royal Bank of Scotland Group completed the largest takeover in British banking history with its hostile acquisition of NatWest in a £21 billion deal, which also cost 18,000 jobs. Its assets at 30 June 2004 totalled £519 billion, its profits over the previous half year up by 17% before tax.[3]

The Group also includes Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland, which also has a strong presence in the Republic of Ireland; Ireland's First Active Plc; Coutts Group, which provides banking to 70,000 wealthy customers in 38 countries; Direct Line, providing insurance and financial services by telephone; Citizens Financial Group, based in Rhode Island (USA), the second largest bank in New England; Churchill, one of the UK's largest providers of insurance products; the asset finance company Lombard; and Style Financial Services Limited, providing retail credit and store cards. In addition to the UK, the Group has offices in Europe, the US, and Asia. It is developing its financial service activities across Europe with Santander Central Hispano of Spain. Tesco Personal Finance, a joint venture between RBS and Tesco, is one of the main supermarket banking brands in the UK.

RBS investments[4]

Friends of the Earth ranks the Royal Bank of Scotland among the least ethical pension scheme providers in Britain, with a score of only 1 out of 15, based on the degree to which ethical, environmental and social considerations were even taken into account, and the mechanisms for customer control and the monitoring of policies in place.[5]

RBS signed up to the Equator Principles, which set certain environmental and social guidelines which any project must meet before they will lend money. However, it is funding the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which has been shown by Friends of the Earth to break these principles on over 150 counts.[6] The Royal Bank of Scotland financed the pipeline by about $100 million. Another bank, Intesa of Italy, has already pulled out of the project due to safety concerns. The Royal Bank of Scotland has ignored all concerns, and seems likely to fund similar projects in future.

The bank's 2003 (most recent) annual report flag-shipped RBS as a major financier of oil services company Petrofac's acquisition plans.[7] Also celebrated were its services to Element Six, an Irish-based company mining diamonds in South Africa, formerly known as De Beers Industrial Diamonds.[8] It is also a major funder of Peel Holdings, which owns Liverpool airport.[9] The bank is heavily involved in funding the civil aviation industry through its subsidiary RBS Aviation Capital, based in Dublin, which finances at least 98 civilian airlines in 36 countries.

In 2004, RBS initiated the refinancing, together with HBoS, of Abbot Group Plc, an offshore drilling, inspection and drilling support company to the tune of £80.2 million.[10]

Natwest, part of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, financed the Asia Pulp and Paper Company (APP), which was responsible for the destruction of 280,000 hectares of Indonesian rainforest over the space of 10 years. They are also in dispute with indigenous peoples over land rights.[11]

Conflicts and criticisms

RBS and racial discrimination

In June 2004 RBS US subsidiary, Citizens, was accused by Fair Finance Watch of racial discrimination in its lending practices. The group alleges that Citizens 'continues to disproportionately exclude and deny African-Americans' and Latinos' applications for mortgage loans'. It cites statistics from a number of US cities, such as Philadelphia, where it claims Citizens rejected 14 out of 15 mortgage applications from African-Americans in 2002. Only 6 out of 15 white applicants in Philadelphia were rejected, it is alleged.[12]

The group Friends of Al-Aqsa (FoAA), a British-Palestinian solidarity organisation had its bank accounts abruptly closed by the Royal Bank of Scotland in January 2005. The group is not under sanction by the government, although an organisation with a similar name is on a Home Office 'watchlist'. The bank has refused to discuss the issue, and merely informed Ismail Patel, chair of the Leicester-based FoAA, that a review had been conducted and the bank was no longer willing to provide him with facilities. He was given 30 days to transfer his personal and business accounts and the FoAA account.[13] Threats of legal action and a mass consumer boycott persuaded the bank to reopen the accounts a few days later.

RBS accounting mismanagement

A report by the US Bankruptcy Court investigating the Enron affair found that 'RBS aided and abetted certain Enron officers in breaching their fiduciary duties', and was aware of Enron's accountancy juggling concerning a power plant in Teesside. The report names four RBS executives, claiming they were among those involved in the deal.[14]

RBS was fined £750,000 in 2002 for breaches of money laundering regulations after it failed to show adequate documentation of customers’ identities for some accounts.[15]

RBS and animal rights

The Royal Bank of Scotland was one of the major financiers of the Huntingdon Life Sciences animal testing centre,[16] but gave up their support when they were informed that their staff and customers could become targeted by the animal rights movement.[17]

Tax havens

According to ActionAid report, along with HSBC, Barclays and Lloyds Group, the Royal Bank of Scotland is among the four big FTSE 100 banks to use tax havens, with over 400 companies located in jurisdictions classed as such.[18] The 'big four' banks account for 1,649 companies located in tax havens.[19]

Manipulating prices

In May 2015 RBS, JPMorgan, Citigroup, Barclays and RBS were found guilty of manipulating the price of US dollar and euros and fined nearly $6 billion between them. US authorities discovered that between December 2007 and January 2013 traders at the banks had referred to themselves at 'The Cartel' in chatrooms 'where they used coded language to set benchmark rates'. During a trial period, one Barclays trader was even told 'mess this up and sleep with one eye open at night' with another Barclay's trader, in November 2010, saying 'if you ain't cheating, you ain't trying'. RBS will pay $395 million in criminal fines as part of their guilty fines.[20]

PR and lobbying


In July 2008, The Telegraph wrote:

"Royal Bank of Scotland may be Scotland's national bank, but is it taking its patriotic duties too far? Its communications department is beginning to resemble an outpost of the Scottish National Party. Staff members in the press office include Andrew Wilson, a former Scottish National Party MSP, and Colin Pyle, who used to work for SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond. And in the government relations team is Andrew Henderson, one of Salmond's drivers during the recent election."[21]
  • Roger Lowry, Head of public / government affairs, appointed January 2008. Ex public affairs chief at Ofcom.[22]
  • Andrew McLaughlin, Director, Group Economics and Corporate Affairs.[23] After several years working in academia, McLaughlin was a corporate finance advisor with Ernst and Young before joining the RBS Group. He is a member of the University of Nottingham Globalisation and Economic Policy Advisory Board and a visiting professor at the University of Glasgow. He also sits on the CBI Economic and Tax Affairs Committee.
  • Andrew Wilson, Head of Group Corporate Affairs. Former Scottish National Party MSP.[24][25]

Lobbying firms

Lobbying firms

Previous contracts

Revolving Door

  • Quentin Davies, MP for Grantham and Stamford and currently a Minister at the Ministry of Defence was an Adviser to Royal Bank of Scotland Capital Markets from 1999 to 2003.[31]
  • Sir Philip Hampton, former CEO of UK Financial Investments Ltd, was appointed Deputy Chairman and Chairman-designate in 2009.[32]
  • U.K. Life Peer Denise Kingsmill, Baroness Kingsmill, has been a Senior Adviser to the Royal Bank of Scotland since 2005.[33]
  • Sir Steve Robson - former Managing Director of Finance, Regulation and Industry Directorate at HM Treasury was a Non-executive director of Royal Bank of Scotland from 2001 to 2009.[34][35]
  • U.K. Life Peer David Vallance, Lord Vallance of Tummel, was Non-executive Vice Chairman of Royal Bank of Scotland Group from 1994 to 2005.[36]
  • Gerald Wilson CB, former Head of Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Department at the Scottish Executive was appointed a Special Adviser Public Affairs to Royal Bank of Scotland plc in February 2000.[37]

Financial crisis 2009

In February 2009 it was announced that RBS had suffered the biggest loss in British corporate history - more than £24 billion. On 26 February the bank agreed terms with the government to take part in its asset protection scheme, which lets it pass most of the potential losses on its riskier assets on to the taxpayer. It has also raised up to £25.5billion in fresh funding from the UK taxpayer. Concerns that UK taxpayers could end up owning 95 per cent of the bank if its losses continued to mount[38] were assuaged by August 2010 when RBS reported an operating profit of £1.6billion, with UK taxpayer ownership at 84 per cent. [39]


Board members

  • Sir Philip Hampton, chairman from January 2009. Replaced Sir Tom McKillop who was held responsible for the downfall of RBS in 2008/09.

Executive Directors

  • Stephen Hester, Group Chief Executive, appointed to the Board on 1 October 2008 and to the position of Group Chief Executive on 21 November 2008. Took over from Sir Fred Goodwin in January 2009. Hester is former chief executive of British Land. He was previously chief operating officer of Abbey National plc and before that he also held positions with Credit Suisse First Boston. In February 2008, he was appointed non-executive deputy chairman of Northern Rock PLC, a position he relinquished on 1 October 2008.
  • Bruce Van Saun, Group Finance Director (1 October 2009- )
  • John Hourican, Chief Executive, Markets & International Banking (joined RBS Group in 1997)
  • Chris Sullivan, Chief Executive, UK Corporate (08.2009- )
  • Paul Geddes, Chief Executive, Direct Line Group (08.2009- )
  • Ellen Alemany, Chief Executive, Citizens and Head of Americas (06.2007- )
  • Ron Teerlink, Chief Administration Officer (04.2008- )
  • Nathan Bostock, Head of Restructuring and Risk (01.06.2009- )
  • Ross McEwan, Chief Executive, UK Retail (08.2012- )

Non-Executive Directors

Former Directors

Executive Directors

Non-Executive Directors


Think tanks and Institutes


London HQ: 250 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 3AA
Edinburgh HQ: 36 St Andrew Square, Edinburgh, EH2 2YB
This article is part of the Finance Lobbying project of Spinwatch
Revolving Door.jpg This article is part of the Revolving Door project of Spinwatch.



  1. Insider, Top 500 Companies, accessed 10 March 2005.
  2. Deloitte, The Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc, 18 April 2005 Web Archive, accessed 03 February 2011.
  3. RBS, The Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc Representing 37,000,000 Non-cumulative Dollar Preference Shares, Series M, prospectus supplement to prospectus dated 17 August 2004, accessed 03 February 2011.
  4. All unreferenced information is from the investors' own websites or from Trustnet,
  5. FoE, Top 100 UK pension funds - how ethical are they?, Briefing, undated, accessed 03 February 2011.
  6. FoE, "Tell Royal Bank of Scotland - Put your money where your mouth is," 20 December 2004 Web Archive, accessed 03 February 2011.
  7. RBS, Annual Reports and Accounts 2003, accessed 03 February 2011.
  8. Ibid.
  9. RBS, Done Deals - Banking on success throughout England & Wales, Winter 2003, Vol.3, 14 May 2005 Web Archive, accessed 03 February 2011.
  10. Insider, Top 500 Companies, accessed 10 March 2005.
  11. FoE, Finance Initiatives for Sustainable Development, Briefing, undated, accessed 03 February 2011.
  12. Walsh, Conal, "RBS 'excludes and denies' black Americans," Guardian, 06 June 2004, accessed 03 February 2011.
  13. Al Yafai, Faisal, "Palestinian aid groups' accounts closed," Guardian, 03 January 2005.
  14. Stanton, Jim, "RBS chiefs named in Enron court papers," Scotsman, 31 December 2004, accessed 31 March 2005.
  15. FSA, "FSA fines Royal Bank of Scotland Plc 750,000 for money laundering control failings," 17 December 2002, accessed 03 February 2011.
  16. Treanor, Jill, Steven Morris and Andrew Clark, "Huntingdon Life: facing collapse in 36 hours," Guardian, 18 January 2001, accessed 03 February 2011.
  17. White, Michael, "Straw attacks banks that dumped protest firm," Guardian, 13 March 2001, accessed 03 February 2011.
  18. ActionAid, Addicted to tax havens: The secret life of the FTSE 100, October 2011, accessed 10 October 2012.
  19. Provost, Claire, "Tax havens and the FTSE 100: the full list," Guardian 11 October 2011.
  20. Hazel Sheffield 'If you ain't cheatin, you ain't trying': four global banks plead guilty to felony charges of fixing the price of dollar and euros Independent, 20 May 2015, accessed 21 May 2015.
  21. Russel, Jonathan, "It's an SNP reunion party at RBS," The Telegraph, 04 July 2008, accessed 03 February 2011.
  22. Mattinson, Alec, "Bankers' apologies are 'pathetic'," PR Week, 11 February 2009, accessed 03 February 2011.
  23. PR Week, "Banking industry Insider's Guide: UK banks' reputation managers," 03 October 2008, accessed 03 February 2011.
  24. PR Week, "Banking industry Insider's Guide: UK banks' reputation managers," 03 October 2008, accessed 03 February 2011.
  25. Russel, Jonathan, "It's an SNP reunion party at RBS," The Telegraph, 04 July 2008, accessed 03 February 2011.
  26. Agency Register September to November 2014 PRCA, accessed 29 January 2015
  27. Jefferson Communications Clients
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  29. O'Reilly, Gemma, "Goodwin/RBS call for advice, PR Week, 28 Jan 2009, accessed 03 February 2011.
  30. Financial Times, Freshwater UK Business Profile, accessed 04 April 2008.
  31. Who's Who 2009, DAVIES, (John) Quentin, online edition, Oxford University Press, accessed 24 March 2009.
  32. Finch, Julia, "RBS fills chair," Guardian, 17 January 2009, accessed 03 February 2011.
  33. Who's Who 2009, KINGSMILL, online edition, Oxford University Press, accessed 24 March 2009.
  34. Who's Who 2009, ROBSON, Sir Stephen Arthur, (Sir Steve), online edition, Oxford University Press, accessed 24 March 2009.
  35. Treanor, Jill, "New RBS chairman clears board of old regime," Guardian, 06 February 2009, accessed 03 February 2011.
  36. Who's Who 2009, VALLANCE OF TUMMEL, online edition, Oxford University Press, accessed 24 March 2009.
  37. ACOBA, The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments Third Report 1999–2000, Cabinet Office, accessed 03 February 2011.
  38. Treanor, Jill, "RBS record losses raise prospect of 95% state ownership," Guardian, 26 February 2009, accessed 03 February 2011.
  39. BBC News, RBS half-year profits hit £1.1bn, 6 August 2010
  40. Treanor, Jill, "Last of Goodwin's RBS directors retires – with £13.5m pension pot," Guardian 18 March 2010, accessed 10 October 2012.
  41. Wachman, Richard, "Fred the Shred: the irresistible rise and rise of a ruthless charmer," Guardian, 27 July 2003, accessed 03 February 2011.
  42. Scotsman, "Scotland's most powerful," 27 April 2003, accessed 10 March 2005.
  43. Scotsman, "Scottish Business Briefing," 26 March 2007, accessed 03 February 2011.
  44. The Telegraph, "Charles recalls Lamport to oversee his coronation," 25 March 2007.