Coutts, which was founded in the 18th century and is best known as banker to the Queen, could be split into two businesses – one based in Britain and one in Zurich, from where it runs operations in Hong Kong, Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Dubai that manage nearly £22 billion in client assets.
RBS has attracted offers from a range of bidders including unnamed Asian and North American parties for Coutts International.
“We will work with local management teams to explore options including merging the remainder of the current Coutts International business, considering joint ventures or a sale, thereby reducing RBS’s footprint internationally,” RBS executives Alison Rose and Les Matheson wrote in a memorandum.
RBS is under pressure to focus on loans to UK households and businesses and help support the country’s economic recovery.
It has undergone a major restructuring in order to pay back taxpayers’ funds and eventually return to private ownership, and appeared a step closer to doing both after it posted a surprise £1bn quarterly profit.
As part of the RBS overhaul, Coutts’ international unit, which employs 1,200 staff, has dramatically cut the number of countries it serves.