Royal Bank of Scotland’s (RBS) new Chief Executive Alison Rose unveiled a new strategy for the taxpayer-backed bank on Friday, including radically cutting back the size of its loss-making investment bank and renaming the company NatWest.
Rose, who replaced former CEO Ross McEwan in November to become the first woman to lead one of the UK’s major banks, is hoping a rebrand will help rehabilitate the lender’s image after years of scandals following a £45 billion taxpayer rescue during the 2008 financial crisis.
Although the RBS brand will live on in Scotland, the bank will stop using the 293-year-old name at group level and adopt the NatWest brand that grew out of National Westminster Bank, which RBS bought in 2000, and which consistently polls as more popular in customer satisfaction surveys in Britain.
The new strategy and better-than-expected profits were, however, overshadowed by a lower than expected eight pence dividend, sending shares down 6 percent in morning trading and demonstrating the challenge Rose faces to win over investors.
The payout will amount to £1 billion ($1.3 billion) including a £600 million windfall for taxpayers, who still own 62 percent of the bank.
RBS Chairman Howard Davies told reporters the bank’s preference was to use excess capital to buy back stock from the government as and when it restarts selling following the March 11 budget.
Rose’s strategy includes plans to halve investment bank NatWest Markets’ risk weighted assets to £20 billion.
She added that making the bank a greener entity would be a top priority to help tackle “one of the defining issues of our generation,” following similar strategy updates by BP and Blackrock in recent weeks.
RBS will stop financing coal power stations by 2030, and aim to be carbon positive by 2025.
Analysts took a dim view of the update, with KBW saying there was “no end to the building site” at RBS and the outlook was “horrible.”
“We believe investors will be disappointed with capital return,” said Joe Dickerson, an analyst at Jefferies.
The lender reported pre-tax profits of £4.2 billion for 2019, 24 percent higher than 2018 and above analyst expectations.
Results were dented by a loss of £121 million at NatWest Markets and a previously announced £900 million compensation provision for mis-sold insurance, part of a wider industry scandal.