The group, still owned by the UK government, had reason for cheer with a stronger set of financial results across the board.
The wealth management arm of Royal Bank of Scotland, which contains Coutts and Adam & Co, the private banks, reported an operating profit of £82 million ($107.9 million) for the first half of 2016, up 60.8 per cent, higher than the same period a year ago.
Adjusted operating profit of £96 million was £23 million, or 31.5 per cent higher year-on-year, mainly reflecting lower adjusted operating expenses, partially offset by lower income, London-listed RBS said in a statement.
Management cost-cutting and cuts to front-office staff reduced operating costs on an adjusted basis fell 14.8 per cent to £218 million.
The wealth business reported assets under management at the end of June of £17.9 billion, 22.6 per cent higher year-on-year, benefiting from rising financial markets and net inflows. Investment cash balances were included in assets under management for the first time in Q3 2016. Excluding this, growth was £2.2 billion, RBS said.
“As assets under management continue to grow, I am further encouraged by our clients seeing us as more than just a bank - turning to us for all of their financial needs. Our funds have achieved top quartile returns across one-, three- and five-year time frames, combined client balances have increased by 8 per cent from £51.8 billion at H1 2016 to £55.7 billion, and our online, cost effective, self select investment solution Coutts Invest continues to go from strength to strength,” Peter Flavel, CEO of the wealth business, said.
Group bounceback, Brexit
RBS, which is still majority-owned by the UK government – as has been the case since the bank was bailed out in the 2008 financial crisis – reported it had swung back into profit in H1. Profit on an attributed basis, was £939 million, against a loss of £2.045 billion a year earlier. Operating profit was £1.951 billion, against a loss a year earlier of £274 million, it said.
The cost/income ratio of the bank narrowed sharply to 69.8 per cent in the first half of 2017, against 97.7 per cent a year earlier.
RBS also confirmed it is considering whether to shift its trading base to the Netherlands when the UK leaves the European Union.
“NatWest Markets has reviewed ways to minimise disruption to the business and continue to serve its customers well in the event of any loss of EU passporting. Should the outcome of the current EU separation negotiations make it necessary, NatWest Markets is ensuring our existing RBS NV banking licence in the Netherlands is operationally ready,” the bank said.
In a conference call, chief executive Ross McEwan reportedly said RBS plans to build-up its Amsterdam unit, acquired after RBS bought ABN Amro in 2008, so that its trading division NatWest Markets can continue to operate smoothly after Brexit.
Since last June’s referendum on the UK membership of the bloc, there has been speculation that a number of banks may move some of their trading/investments operations to the continent to ensure they retain access to the European Union, although there remains debate over how large any such exodus may be.