Finance · 10 August 2015

RBS managers told to meet more small firms to make sure they “own customer relationships”

The head of commercial and private banking said: "If you only ever see things through the filter of a large corporate, you don't get a real feel."
The head of commercial and private banking said: “If you only ever see things through the filter of a large corporate, you don’t get a real feel.”

Bosses at Royal Bank of Scotland have been encouraged to meet more small firms, to become further aware of their needs and avoid becoming “completely disconnected” from what the businesses are about.

A new rule from the bank’s commercial and private banking chief has been introduced to try and make sure senior managers don’t repeat mistakes made in the pre-crash years, when they “forgot what they were there for”.

Alison Rose, head of commercial and private banking, said she wants others to follow in her footsteps of meeting two or three small businesses a week, to make sure they “own customer relationships”.

Rose said she makes herself and her executive committed do so, “because it is important to stay connected with businesses”. This includes going through the individual business’ books and coming to decisions on loan applications.

All 3,500 relationship managers at RBS will be sent on a new set of training courses to work on the basics of banking, including credit risk and more broadly on culture and behaviour, along with helping staff to specialise in specific sectors. Rose and the executive committee will also be taking the course.

RBS is currently the UK’s biggest lender to businesses and Rose said there was “a long way to go” in improving both customer service, as well as “trust and the advocacy”. An investigation into the bank’s Global Restructuring Group has been ongoing since last year after it was accused of pushing small businesses into the turnaround division to charge higher fees and interest.

Rose feels that “if you’re an executive and you’re not spending time with customers, you become completely disconnected from what the business is all about”. She added that only through establishing and maintaining that human contact did progress and awareness come about, as it gave the opportunity for small firms to flag where they were having issues.

“The whole point is, banks forgot what they were there for – if you only ever see things through the filter of a large corporate, you don’t get a real feel, whereas if you sit down with a customer they are not shy about saying, ‘I don’t like this’ or ‘there is a problem here.’”

Rose believes that encouraging more interaction also shows that she’s “quite ordinary”. It was important that customers “don’t think there is a big bad boss up at central office opining on their business,” she said.

The chancellor recently announced the commencement of part of the sale of the taxpayer’s stake in RBS, to start the privatisation of the bank seven years after it was bailed out.

In the UK and Ireland, The Royal Bank of Scotland Group’s main subsidiary companies are the Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest, Ulster Bank and Coutts. NatWest has been part of The Royal Bank of Scotland Group since 2000 and currently has more than 850,000 small business accounts.

Image: Shutterstock

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Rebecca is a reporter for Business Advice. Prior to this, she worked with a range of tech, advertising, media and digital clients at Propeller PR and did freelance work for The Telegraph.

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