RBS job losses ‘inevitable’ with digital investment, finance chief says

The bank’s chief financial officer says it is moving into a ‘different phase’

Nejra Cehic,Stefania Spezzati
Thursday 01 March 2018 09:17 GMT
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RBS remains the UK’s biggest state-owned lender
RBS remains the UK’s biggest state-owned lender

Royal Bank of Scotland chief financial officer Ewen Stevenson signalled further job cuts as Britain’s biggest government-owned lender accelerates its investment in technology.

“The bank is moving into a different phase,” Mr Stevenson, 51, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in London. The transformation “creates a better bank in 2020, a better bank equipped for digitisation”, he said.

Mr Stevenson said restructuring costs of £2.5bn, announced last week, are in part related to the disposal of properties and “data centres”, which are a legacy of the past.

The chief financial officer did not give a target for potential job reductions at the company, which shut 259 branches in December as customers increasingly access their accounts online.

“It’s inevitable that there will be further job cuts, but we are not going to talk publicly about figures,” he said. Full-time employment at the bank fell by 8.5 per cent last year to 71,200 people, according to RBS’s annual report.

The Edinburgh-based lender last week reported its first full-year profit in a decade, and it’s trying to reach a settlement with the US Department of Justice over a mortgage-securities probe before it can restore dividends.

The fortunes of the bank are tied to the strength of the UK economy, where it earns almost all of its revenue. One of the headwinds for Britain is uncertainty over Brexit, which Mr Stevenson warned that many mid-size companies are not fully prepared for.

“We are very focused on what Brexit means for the underlying economic growth in the country,” he said. “Anything that will impact GDP will impact us.”

The bank’s management has been under the spotlight after UK lawmakers recently published a regulator’s report detailing past misconduct at RBS’s small business lending unit.

Mr Stevenson said that the bank is “comfortable” with the provisions of about £400m it took in 2016 to address any damage to customers.

Bloomberg

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