RBS ‘could cut 15,000 jobs’ in bid to save £800m per year

The bank has lost more than £50bn since it was bailed out in 2008

The Edinburgh-based lender is unlikely to reveal a headline figure for role reductions
The Edinburgh-based lender is unlikely to reveal a headline figure for role reductions

Royal Bank of Scotland is preparing to cut more than £800m of annual operating costs by eliminating jobs and closing branches as it seeks to bolster profitability, said a person with knowledge of the plans.

While the Edinburgh-based lender will probably not reveal a headline figure for role reductions, senior executives have determined RBS has more staff than it requires and will cut more jobs, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the details are private.

RBS has said it will unveil fresh plans to meet profit targets alongside annual results on 24 February. The Sunday Times, citing an analyst it did not identify, said RBS needed to cut 15,000 jobs. An RBS spokeswoman, who declined to comment on the plans, said of The Times story: “We do not recognise this report.”

Chief executive Ross McEwan’s plan to lower the bank’s cost-to-income ratio, a key measure of profitability, to below 50 per cent by 2020 was blown off-course after the Bank of England cut interest rates last year. He probably needs to remove about £800m of annual expenses to reach his target, analysts at UBS Group led by Jason Napier wrote in a note to clients last month.

“Given all the restructuring RBS has already undergone, such a change from here would be challenging and expensive to deliver,” Mr Napier, who has a neutral rating on shares, said.

RBS shares climbed 1.0 per cent to 231.1p in London. The stock is up 2.9 per cent this year, after dropping 26 per cent in 2016.

RBS’s cuts may need to exceed £800m, the person said. David Lock, an analyst at Deutsche Bank, wrote in a note this month that he expects RBS to target a total cost base of £7bn by 2020, which would necessitate cutting £1.5bn to £1.6bn pounds of expenses.

The lender will probably cut administrative roles and eliminate staff for tasks such as opening bank accounts, the person added. While RBS will look to cut costs, the lender will also consider investing in upgrading its IT systems to improve efficiency and lower expenses, the person said.

While the plan is aimed at reducing the long-term cost base, it could boost expenses in the near term. RBS spent £4.4bn in the past two years in its effort to cut ongoing costs by £1.8bn, Mr Napier wrote. The new effort could have the effect of reducing any excess capital that could otherwise be used for buybacks and dividends, he said.

Bloomberg

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