Rose tells staff she also aims to make bank ‘more open’ to help regain trust after string of scandals
The first female boss of a major British bank has pledged to make the climate crisis a priority as she took over the top job at Royal Bank of Scotland.
Alison Rose said she would build a more “open and, accessible and inclusive” bank following years of scandal at the state-owned lender. Rose said she would reveal her new strategy for the bank in the new year, but sought to draw a line under the past following the departure of Ross McEwan, who led the bank since 2013.
“At the heart of how I will run the bank is my conviction that if our customers do well, if our economy does well and if our communities do well, then we all succeed together,” Rose wrote.
“Shared success also means playing our part to help tackle the problems that can hold the country back, like the threat from climate change, a lack of financial confidence and barriers to enterprise and growth. These pillars will form part of our strategy.”
Addressing staff later on Friday morning, she said that under her leadership RBS would be taking “bold actions to play a driving role in helping the UK transition to a low-carbon economy”. But Rose is not expected to overhaul RBS’ fossil fuel financing policy which was unveiled last year. It states that RBS will not fund Arctic oil or oil sands projects and will cut lending to firms profiting largely from coal.
Rose is the first female chief executive to lead one of the UK’s big four lenders, after climbing the corporate ladder during a 27-year career at RBS. Her predeccessor, Ross McEwan, had led the bank since 2013.
She takes over at a turning point for the lender, which is still working to gain back trust following a string of scandals and its £45bn state bailout following the lender’s near collapse in 2008. It is 62%-owned by the taxpayer.
Over the past 10 years, the lender has been hit with claims that it mis-sold toxic mortgage-backed securities in the lead-up to the global credit crunch, and that it pushed small businesses towards failure in order to sell their assets for profit.
Rose takes over an institution with fewer legal problems, after the bank reached a $4.9bn (£3.8bn) settlement with US authorities and the City watchdog confirmed it would not punish the bank for mistreating business customersfollowing the financial crash.
Rose did not say whether her new strategy would involve job cuts, but Unite – the trade union that represents RBS workers – said staff needed to be reassured after years of upheaval under its former boss.
Unite’s national officer, Rob MacGregor, said: “Everybody feels a mixture of nerves and excitement when they start a new job, but for Alison Rose there is an incredible opportunity to turn things around at RBS.
“Unite members are concerned about the security of their jobs, pay and reward, flexible working practices, increased stress and pressure upon their mental health, unreasonable targets and the gender pay gap. Now is the time for urgent change within the bank.”
MacGregor said employees were understandably nervous, having watched thousands of colleagues lose their jobs since the financial crisis. “They have seen the name of their employer, often appearing daily in the media, linked to numerous scandals or regulatory fines for poor practices. The workforce of RBS has had to pay for the mistakes made by the bank’s management.” RBS employs around 67,000 people.
Rose said in her letter that she wanted RBS to be “more open, more accessible and more inclusive,” and wanted to develop better communication with staff. She added that there would be more opportunities to provide feedback to the bank’s leadership.
She wrote: “With a defining period for the banking sector ahead of us, we will deliver a dynamic, confident response to the challenges we face and build a purposeful bank that is trusted by its customers, plays its part in society and delivers for its investors.”