RBS to put £700m into upgrading its aging retail banking operations

19 March 2013

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) Group, which with its NatWest and Ulster Bank imprints is one of the largest banks in the UK, is to spend £700m on upgrading its retail banking operation between now and 2016 to try to improve its recent poor availability and customer service.

According to RBS the money will be spent on refurbishments across its network of 2,066 branches and on initiatives to improve services to its 15.4 million customers within the UK. A ‘branch of the future’ can be expected in large regional centres in the UK with extra automated facilities, says the bank. Faster account opening and easier mortgage processing are also expected to result from the upgrade programme, which is also intending to improve the bank’s complaints handling procedure and centralise customer data alongside enhanced analytics to improve service and cross-selling opportunities. The online and mobile banking offerings will also receive investment, added the bank, which recently unveiled its plans for a mobile P2P UK payments service.

The new initiatives are part of a strategy outlined by newcomer, Ross McEwan, who was appointed head of RBS' UK retail bank business in August 2012, joining from Commonwealth Bank of Australia, where he was previously head of retail banking for five years. He has announced his intention to “make RBS the best retail bank in Britain” and says he’s not met anyone yet who thinks there is great retail banking in the UK at present.

The problem for McEwan is that RBS is starting from a very low base. RBS suffered another retail banking computer failure in early March this year after its notorious week-long IT collapse last summer, so there is a lot of trust to regain with UK consumers and no doubt a lot of work to be done to improve its systems. The bailed out taxpayer-owned bank is seeking to refocus away from its disastrous investment banking business on to its core retail banking unit, where its strength previously lay before its aborted expansion during the ‘noughties’.

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