M and A

RBS Pondering Sale Of Coutts' Overseas Operations - Report

Tom Burroughes Group Editor 18 July 2014

RBS Pondering Sale Of Coutts' Overseas Operations - Report

A newspaper report said RBS is considering the fate of Coutts' overseas operations, such as those in Asia. This publication understands this is pure speculation.

A newspaper report that UK-listed Royal Bank of Scotland – now mostly owned by the government since the financial crisis – is thinking of selling Coutts’ foreign operations, is pure speculation, this publication understands.

A report yesterday by the Financial Times newspaper said RBS is considering such a sale of Coutts’ overseas business as it conducts a review of its wealth management arm.

In an emailed statement sent to the FT and this publication Coutts said: "We announced in February that Coutts will sit within our Commercial and Private Banking division, where we can better connect it with the successful entrepreneurs and growth businesses who are creating wealth. As part of the transition and integration of this business, we have been reviewing our private banking business so that it works to the benefit for customers."

In early 2009, after RBS had been bailed out by the-then UK government led by Gordon Brown, there was speculation that the bank might attempt to offload Coutts – a historic firm dating back to the early 1690s – but despite repeated enquiries, no such move appears to have been seriously embarked upon. It is notable, however, that other banks in Europe that were bailed out, such as Commerzbank in Germany and ING in the Netherlands, were obliged to sell non-domestic assets as a condition of receiving state aid, but this may not apply to Coutts.

The FT report noted that Coutts is being integrated with RBS's UK commercial lending division as part of a strategic overhaul. Alison Rose, head of the new commercial and private banking division, is leading the review and is expected to announce her strategy for the business at an investor day as early as September this year.

The wealth arm makes up 6 per cent of RBS's 2013 revenues. The international arm has clients in Asia, the Middle East and Europe, with offices in Hong Kong, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Dubai, Geneva, Zurich and Monaco.

Last year, this publication worked with Coutts on a major report exploring how private banks can better serve the large independent wealth management market in Switzerland.

Register for WealthBriefing today

Gain access to regular and exclusive research on the global wealth management sector along with the opportunity to attend industry events such as exclusive invites to Breakfast Briefings and Summits in the major wealth management centres and industry leading awards programmes