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RBS Wants To Double Private Banking Arm, Take International Unit Into Coutts Brand

Tom Burroughes

29 March 2011

The private banking arm of Royal Bank of Scotland wants to double its size and bring its international unit into the centuries-old Coutts brand, the division’s head has said.

Rory Tapner, RBS's wealth chief since last August, is embarking on a series of changes to the division that involve a push to win new clients in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Asia, with the international private bank, currently called RBS Coutts, also to become branded just as Coutts, according to Reuters.

RBS, which is part owned by the UK taxpayer after the bailouts during the financial crisis of two years ago, has repeatedly stated it intends to keep its wealth management arm, seen as a steady source of revenue. In Asia, the bank’s international wealth arm has joined other Western banks in pursuing fast growth in that region.

As part of the refocus, Tapner said the London-headquartered bank will devote less time to pursuing lower-margin clients with less than £1 million or more than £75 million. The change in the client mix will diversify Coutts away from the domestic market, reducing UK clients as a share of the total to 40 per cent from 60 per cent, he was quoted by the news service as saying.

"We won't be shrinking the UK ... it implies we are adding in more investment in high growth markets rather than take lots of market share in mature markets," Tapner said.

The change comes at a time when banks’ margins have been squeezed by low interest rates, rising regulations and taxes on the financial sector. In February, RBS said its wealth division logged a drop in operating profit, before impairment losses, of £322 million (around $520 million) in 2010, from £453 million in 2009. Its profit in the final three months of last year rose to £93 million from £75 million in the previous quarter.

By 2015 combined assets and liabilities will rise to £160 billion from about £80 billion now, Tapner, a former employee of UBS, added.

There will be no additional job cuts as part of any reorganisation, he said.