RBS to be investigated further after probe into treatment of small businesses.

The financial regulating body has said it is to further investigate Royal Bank of Scotland's treatment of small businesses following an independent review of its dealings with about 12,000 customers.

RBS was the subject of a probe by the FCA.
RBS was the subject of a probe by the FCA.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said it is "focusing on whether there is any basis for further action within our powers" after publishing an interim report which identified a number of shortcomings at the Edinburgh-based institution. However, it said that the most serious allegations were not upheld.

The investigation, which looked at the bank's dealings with customers who were part of RBS’s now-defunct Global Restructuring Group (GRG), found a range of problems, including “a failure to support SME businesses” and “a failure by RBS to adopt adequate procedures concerning the relationship with customers”.

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Andrew Bailey, FCA chief executive, said that the report identified "other concerns" about the treatment of SME customers, but that the most serious allegations against the bank had been dismissed.

He added: “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. 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.

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

Ross McEwan, chief executive of RBS, apologised for the bank's failings and pointed to the FCA's remarks that the remediation steps announced by RBS in November were "appropriate".

He 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 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.”

Skilled Persons’ reports are commissioned by the FCA to diagnose and monitor issues in firms and are subject to conditions of confidentiality. However, the FCA said it acknowledged the public interest in this case and decided to publish an interim summary of the findings and conclusions of the report.