Royal Bank of Scotland name change confusion risks losing Scottish customers, warns expert

Historic institution Royal Bank of Scotland could be in danger of losing Scottish customers amid confusion over its change of name, an expert has warned.
RBS will not rebrand its high street branches as NatWest.RBS will not rebrand its high street branches as NatWest.
RBS will not rebrand its high street branches as NatWest.

The almost-400-year-old bank has today officially changed its name to NatWest, in a move which chief executive Alison Rose hailed as an “historic day” and a “symbolic moment” for the financial giant.

A change has been on the cards for some time in a bid to rid the bank of the “toxic” brand legacy which remained after the financial crash of 2008, when the bank was forced to take a £45.5 billion state bailout – and the subsequent Global Restructuring Group scandal, which saw the bank accused of asset-stripping small firms to shore up its balance sheet.

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But author Ian Fraser, who wrote ‘Shredded: Inside RBS, The bank That Broke Britain’, an account of the demise of the bank during the financial crisis of 2008, said that many customers appeared to be mistaken that the bank’s high street brand would also change to NatWest.

In reality, it is the bank’s official parent company name, on documents filed with Companies House which will change, while the high street name – and customer accounts in Scotland - will remain as RBS.

Many customers have voiced their disappointment on Twitter, vowing to leave the institution.

Mr Fraser said: “I think they could lose customers over this. It is very difficult to explain that this is just a holding company name change and they haven’t done a particularly good job of explaining that and this will come back to haunt them.

“A lot of people will see that RBS has changed its name to NatWest today and they’ll think the name of their bank has changed.”

He added: “I think they would have been playing with fire if they had gone down the road of changing the name of the retail bank.”

Customers took to social media to lament the change of name, with many vowing to ditch their RBS accounts.

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One customer wrote on Twitter: “I will be leaving RBS, I don’t want to have an account with NatWest, I joined it when I was 14, will be leaving now I am 54, sooner Scotland gets its own bank the better in my opinion.

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“It has lost the Scottish identity, NatWest has no connection to Scotland, and are watering down of everything Scottish. Will tartan be gone???”

The bank first announced its intention to change its parent company name and stock exchange ticker in February stressing that there would be no change to its customer-facing brands, with branches in Scotland continuing to operate under the historic Royal Bank of Scotland banner.

RBS has not yet responded to a request for comment.

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