As a purpose-led bank, RBS also said it will no longer do business with companies that do not have serious transition plans to move away from fossil fuels. File Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo

British bank RBS changes name in evolution to 'purpose-led' operation


Feb. 14 (UPI) -- The Royal Bank of Scotland announced Friday it will change its name to the NatWest Group later this year as part of a shift to become a "purpose-led" operation -- and distance itself from scandals related to a major bailout more than a decade ago.

RBS will still exist, but the parent company will undergo the name change. Most branches in Scotland will keep the Royal Bank of Scotland name and signage.

The bank, which is 62 percent owned by British taxpayers, said the new name is a branding evolution and will not affect customer services. RBS nearly collapsed in 2008 but was saved by a government bailout of more than $50 billion. RBS' reputation was further damaged by various accusations over activities that led to the crisis.

The parent company has been known as RBS for nearly 300 years, but officials said they felt now is a good time to make the change and reflect that NatWest is its largest brand.

CEO Alison Rose, who took over last fall, said the change marks the start of a "new era" and is part of the bank's plan to cut about $325 million in costs this year. That savings plan will almost certainly come with some layoffs and branch closures, though Rose didn't specify those Friday.

"Customers will see no change to products or services as a result of this change and will continue to be served through the brands they recognize today," the bank said in a statement.

"As we build a purpose-led bank focused on our customers, this is the right time to align our group name with the brand under which the majority of our business is delivered."

As part of its strategy as a purpose-led bank, RBS will also stop lending and underwriting for major oil and gas producers that do not have plans to cut carbon emissions levels that are in line with the multinational Paris Agreement.

The bank may take similar action against companies which continue to operate with certain levels of coal power, and said it will phase out coal financing entirely by 2030. It also said it will halve the climate impact of its lending activity by the end of the 2020s.

"On our balance sheet, only 1 percent of our lending is to the oil and gas sector, and in coal it's marginal," Rose said.

"But, for me, the key message here is we're all going to need to work together; no one organization is going to solve the climate challenge on their own and we're very keen to work with business, with regulators, with industry to help make the plans to transition over the next 10 years."

RBS reported an operating profit Friday of $5.5 billion for 2019, exceeding its financial targets.