The Business On... Rory Tapner, Banker to the Queen

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The Independent Online

She has her own banker?

Strictly speaking not, though one imagines Her Majesty doesn't spend a great deal of time on hold to call centres. No, Mr Tapner is the new chief at the private bank Coutts, which – though it has always been very secretive about its client list – is reputed to have been the Royal Family's bank since at least the days of Queen Victoria.

He's a pukka sort of chap, then?

Naturally. Educated at Radley College, Mr Tapner has enjoyed a long and respectable career at some of the City's most blue-blooded institutions. Until recently, he was chief executive and chairman of UBS's Asian operations. If anything, Coutts is probably something of a come-down.

What do you mean?

Coutts' history is pretty impressive but in recent times it has been a little less exclusive. It was bought by the National Westminster Bank in 1969 and became part of the Royal Bank of Scotland group following its takeover of NatWest in 2000 (the deal that made the career of one Sir Fred Goodwin, by the way).

So we all own it then?

You're right – RBS is still 84 per cent owned by the taxpayer, so in that sense all of us have a stake in Coutts (though its account requirements remain out of reach to the majority). And maybe it is appropriate that the Queen's bank is owned by her subjects.

So what does Mr Tapner plan?

Well, he's been drafted in to give the bank a bit of a shake-up (there had even been rumours RBS might look to sell Coutts), though don't expect him to remove the cash machine supposedly installed in the basement of Buckingham Palace.

Does it need that?

Probably. RBS has never seemed quite sure how to pitch Coutts. Should it be an ultra high-end private bank or a unit within its wealth management division? Mr Tapner will also have to deal with a regulatory investigation into the bank. Some of its clients have complained about the AIG savings bonds Coutts sold them.