FCA mulls further action on RBS restructuring unit

Andrew Bailey

The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has published its interim report into the treatment of small businesses by Royal Bank of Scotland’s Global Restructuring Group (GRG).

The FCA identified a number of failings at RBS, but said the bank had not engaged in “systematic inappropriate treatment of customers.”

However, FCA chief executive Andrew Bailey said the regulator is now focusing on “whether there is any basis for further action within our powers.”

Bailey said: “Commercial lending activity is largely unregulated in the UK but given the seriousness of the allegations against RBS it was appropriate for us to look at their treatment of SME customers.

“As we reported in November 2016, while the most serious allegations were not upheld by the Skilled Person, the report did identify other concerns about the treatment of SME customers.

“RBS has accepted that it did not meet the standards it set for itself which impacted on how it treated some of its SME customers.

“RBS has since taken voluntary steps, such as its proactive review of complex fees, and setting up a complaints scheme for eligible SME customers, overseen by an independent monitor, Sir William Blackburne.

“Having considered documents and cases highlighted by the Skilled Person we agreed that RBS’s proposals, including to establish a complaints scheme, were appropriate steps.

“We are investigating the matters arising from the Skilled Person’s Report and are focusing on whether there is any basis for further action within our powers.

“We cannot comment any further on this.”

RBS chief executive Ross McEwan said: “I am pleased that the regulator has confirmed the findings from last November and that the most serious allegations made against the bank have not been upheld.

“We have acknowledged for some time that mistakes were made and have apologised that we did not always provide the level of service and understanding we should have done for these customers in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

“The regulator has again confirmed that the remediation steps we announced in November to address concerns for customers are appropriate.

“Any customer who feels they were treated inappropriately whilst in GRG should make use of the complaints process.

“The culture, structure and way RBS operates today have all changed fundamentally since the period under review.

“We have made significant changes to deal with the issues of the past, so that the bank can better support SME customers in financial difficulty whilst also protecting the bank’s capital.”

Nicky Morgan, chair of the Treasury Select Committee, said: “It has taken the FCA too long to publish its summary of the skilled persons’ report, so this is not before time.

“The committee has put in place an arrangement to ensure maximum possible transparency is brought to this issue.

“When its independent adviser reports back later this week, the committee will consider whether further steps are required.”