RBS chief: 'We let some of our SME customers down'

RBS chief: 'We let some of our SME customers down'

A Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) chief has admitted that the firm let down some of its small- and medium-enterprise (SME) customers in the wake of the financial crisis.

Jon Pain, chief conduct and regulatory affairs officer at RBS, acknowledged that the bank’s global restructuring group (GRG) did not do enough to help its SME customers between 2008 and 2013.

In a statement, Jon said: “RBS has been very clear that GRG’s role was to protect the bank's position, where possible by working with distressed businesses to return them to financial health.

“In the aftermath of the financial crisis we did not always meet our own high standards and we let some of our SME customers down.

“…Specifically, we could have managed the transition to GRG better and we could have better explained to customers any changes to the prices or fees we were charging.”

Jon also accepted that the bank did not always handle customer complaints well and that a number of customers did not receive the level of service that they should have done at the time.

He explained that the GRG had struggled to cope with an unprecedented rise in the number of SMEs falling into financial distress in 2008.

The GRG witnessed a 400% increase in customers following the crisis.

Despite recognising that the bank should have been able to handle this influx, Jon insisted that the GRG safeguarded tens of thousands of jobs by advancing over £100m of new lending and restructuring thousands of SMEs between 2011 and 2013.

Between 2008 and 2013, RBS lost more than £2bn from lending to SME customers.

“These were incredibly difficult times for the bank and the wider economy,” Jon added.

“Since that time, RBS has become a different bank and significant structural and cultural changes have been put in place, including … how we deal with customers in financial distress.

“We continue to learn the lessons of the past and seek to do better for our customers.

“RBS is a fundamentally different institution today as a result.”

The Financial Conduct Authority is currently reviewing the GRG’s treatment of SME customers.

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