Comment: McEwan will find making up is hard to do

Terry Murden. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Terry Murden. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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NOBODY likes to make news for the wrong reasons and another blow has been delivered to an already damaged suspect.

I refer, of course, to Royal Bank of Scotland and its interrogator Sir Andrew Large, a former deputy governor of the Bank of England.

As predicted by The Scotsman yesterday, he has criticised RBS for failing to meet business customers’ expectations and even falling short of its own. Far from being the bank that is “Ahead for business”, according to its slogan, it appears to have much work to do.

Ross McEwan, the bank’s chief executive, has accepted the findings of the report and he will make it a priority to implement measures for improving performance given his pledge to make RBS the number one bank for SMEs.

He will have been well-prepared for Large’s verdict about what needs to be done, although the full response will not emerge until early next year.

Since his appointment last month, New Zealander McEwan has been trying to bring a smile to the bank’s staff and its customers, touring the branches and sitting down for tea and cakes with the smallest of SMEs.

But shaking hands with colleagues is the easy part. Trying to make up for sins of the past is the tricky bit. Already this week he has had to hold his hands up on foreign exchange dealings and now on its rickety business lending. Today he may have better news on underlying trading but will likely have to deal with plans to restructure the bank.

Welcome to RBS, Ross. You’ll have to get used to this sort of thing. Just when you’re trying to make friends, someone comes up from behind and sticks the boot in.

BT offline but on the ball with good figures

Recent personal difficulties in trying to get a BT line transferred from an old to a new address only makes me sympathise with those customers who have been waiting several months to get a connection.

Only this week one cheery BBC Radio Four presenter recalled how much things had improved since the bad old days when it took up to six months to get a line. Unless BT gets on top of this problem it seems we’re heading back in that direction.

Hopefully, a week after my line was promised it will be operable this morning. But it takes the shine off better-than-expected second-quarter results and the general triumphalism surrounding its battle with BSkyB for television sports viewers.

The numbers are actually pretty good and defy the apparent customer problems. There is good growth in a number of areas, with the Openreach and retail divisions moving ahead quickly. Broadband is making a huge contribution to the top line. Investors are certainly licking their lips at the prospect of further expansion. The shares are up by more than 70 per cent so far this year but analysts believe they have further to go.

Thorburn leading a recharged Clydesdale

BACK to banking and the return to profitability of Clydesdale and Yorkshire. They have not had their troubles to seek in recent times and chief executive David Thorburn accepts there is some way to go.

He has never been one for grandstanding even in the good times but he is managing a gradual return to form that will hopefully bring about some long-needed stability.