This is your final demand: RBS told to sell off Williams & Glyn

The Business Secretary called for  RBS to set out and publish a clear timetable of the steps it intends to take to spin-off the new bank

associate Business editor

The Business Secretary Vince Cable last night demanded Royal Bank of Scotland speed up its divestment of challenger bank Williams & Glyn in a letter to RBS chief executive Ross McEwan.

The letter was published just hours before this morning’s expected provisional announcement of an investigation into the small business banking and current account markets by the Competition and Markets Authority.

In it Mr Cable calls for RBS to set out and publish a clear timetable of the steps it intends to take to spin-off the new bank, and to “accelerate” the process of rebranding the 318 branches that will make it up so customers are familiar with the new company. 

Mr Cable – who has in the past criticised what he has called “the inordinate amount of time” taken to complete the spin-off – is understood to have compared RBS’s progress unfavourably with Lloyds Banking Group’s sell-off of TSB.

Lloyds started rebranding branches as TSB some months before the “new” bank’s successful flotation on the London Stock Exchange last month. 

Frustration is mounting in Mr Cable’s business department that RBS hasn’t taken similar steps amid what is seen as foot dragging by the majority state-owned bank.

He wants a meeting with Mr McEwan, who is due to take part in a radio phone-in on London’s LBC this morning.

Mr Cable said he was “aware” that RBS had been forced to swiftly change its plans following the collapse of its attempt to sell what is intended to become Williams & Glyn, then known as “project rainbow”, to Spain’s Banco Santander back in 2012. 

But he said: “The divestment will have taken over four years from that collapse. Moreover, businesses continue to raise concerns with me that the length of the process risks reducing the impact of the divestment when it comes.”

Mr Cable said he feared a “gradual erosion” of the Williams & Glyn customer base because of the delayed sell-off. 

And, in a clear shot across Mr McEwan’s bow, he added: “I trust RBS will take all necessary steps to support the management of the new bank in the meantime on regulatory matters, and to give them the right combination of support and freedom so they can begin to develop their own products, brand positioning and distinctive culture.”

RBS has privately warned the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary that the spin-off is unlikely before the EU-mandated deadline of 2016 for the first sale of shares, with the final separation of the two banks supposed to be complete by 2017.

RBS was ordered to sell or float off Williams & Glyn as a consequence of the bank’s taxpayer-funded bailout during the financial crisis. Lloyds floated TSB for the same reason.

Unlike TSB, which is primarily a retail bank, Williams & Glyn is stronger in small business banking, a sector of the market dominated by RBS.

RBS policies towards small business were sharply criticised in a report by Lawrence Tomlinson, entrepreneur in residence at Mr Cable’s department. In it he alleged viable businesses had been forced into bankruptcy by the bank’s Global Restructuring Group.

RBS has denied the charges and a review by the City law firm Clifford Chance cleared the bank of deliberately forcing small firms to the brink. But former Torex Retail boss Neil Mitchell has said he plans to sue the bank over the issue.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Recruitment Genius: Experienced Financial Advisers and Paraplanners

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This extremely successful and well-established...

Guru Careers: FX Trader / Risk Manager

Competitive with monthly bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced FX...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue