“This is a historic day for our bank as we become NatWest Group plc. Although there will be no changes to our customer brands, it’s a symbolic moment for our colleagues and stakeholders. The bank has changed fundamentally over the last decade and now is the right time to align our group name with the brand under which the majority of our business is delivered”, said chief executive Alison Rose.
“While what we are called is important, it’s how we do business that defines us…We are building a sustainable and purposeful business that champions the potential of our customers at every stage of their lives, delivers for our stakeholders and plays a positive role in our society”, she added.
The banking giant, which also owns the Queen’s bank Coutts and is part-owned by the UK taxpayer, said last Thursday that it will retain the RBS brand at its Scottish branches but operate as NatWest in its other markets.
It also said at the time that the name change plans formed part of a strategy to align its group name “with the brand under which the majority of our business is delivered”, as around 80% of the company’s customer base originates from its Natwest division.
However, the name change may also be a move by the bank to finally draw a line under the lingering toxicity of its RBS name, which has continued to pervade since the 2008 financial crisis amid a litany of scandals over payment protection insurance (PPI), rate fixing and the behaviour of its Global Restructuring Group (GRG) business unit.
A report published by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) last year found that GRG had mistreated small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) which were transferred to its control after the crash, with an independent review also uncovering evidence of plans to drain businesses of cash in order to acquire assets and equity and boost bonuses for certain employees.
Rebrands: the good, the bad and the ugly
RBS’s rebrand also is the latest chapter in the chequered history of major corporate revamps.
Perhaps one of the more famous examples of a rebrand gone wrong was the 2001 name change of Royal Mail Group PLC (LON:RMG) to ‘Consignia’, part of a strategy by then chief executive John Roberts to expand the scope of the business and attempt to push into international markets.
The £2mln rebrand became an instant laughing stock and lasted around sixteen months before it was canned, with Roberts himself being consigned to the list of former CEOs of the firm shortly after.
While Royal Mail’s short-lived rebrand was part of an effort to look to the future of the business, the rebrand of Arthur Anderson’s consulting arm to Accenture in 2001 was, much like RBS, a bid to cut the company off from its toxic past.
Once one of the most widely respected accountancy firms, Arthur Anderson’s reputation was left in tatters following its role in the bankruptcy of US energy giant Enron, which was found to have used questionable accounting practices to hide debt off its balance sheet which had been signed off by Anderson’s accountants.
The tech firm formed Alphabet as a parent to the core search engine business, which remains its largest asset, while also allowing it to scale the management of its other business arms, many of which include research & development firms creating technology related to self-driving cars and other so-called ‘moon-shot’ projects.
Shares in Natwest Group, which are still trading under the ‘RBS’ ticker, were 0.4% lower at 121p in mid-afternoon trading on Wednesday.
–Adds confirmation of name change, updates share price–