It was once a name that spanned the world, pitching Scotland among the frontrunners in global banking. But the Royal Bank of Scotland nameplate, unchanged since it was founded in 1727, is being taken down this week, to be replaced by “NatWest Group”.
Few may notice and fewer still care: branches will still retain the RBS name and logo. Many may feel this historic name was not so much replaced as brought clattering down by the leaden weight of its self-inflicted errors. The ignominy of the 2008 collapse, its government rescue and subsequent management failures and ill-treatment of small business customers clung to the RBS carcass like the smell of rotting fish.
But to be renamed by a bank that had reached a corporate and management dead end by the time RBS acquired it in 2000? ‘RBS’ may now be neither Royal nor Scottish as it once was – or much of a proud bank after 2008. But for the parent group to be renamed ‘NatWest’ does more than jar with Scottish sensibilities. Tony Mackay, a professor of economics in Inverness, believes the decision is a fresh example of what he sees as a decline in Scotland’s financial services industry.
“The change may not make a difference to bank customers”, he said, “but I believe it is a significant blow to the reputation of the financial services industry in Scotland.”
Now the name enters the black oblivion accorded to many outstanding names in Scottish finance, particularly in the life assurance sector: Scottish Amicable, Scottish Equitable, Scottish Provident. However much these disappearances were “inevitable” or the victim of changing times, this cumulative loss marks a fall in the stature and standing of Scottish finance.
Chief executive Alison Rose hailed the change as a “historic day” for the bank, enabling it to “move on” and “align our group name with the brand under which the majority of our business is delivered”.
Oh dear. Too right. But altogether too sad.
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