If brass necks were real then this glib banker would not be able to lift his head to brush his teeth in the morn­ing

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - OPINION -

McEwan de­fended branch clo­sures as cus­tomer choices

Idon’t want to sound like a bro­ken record but I’m afraid the RBS – the Real Bank­ing Shame, or the Royal Bank of Scot­land – gets it in the neck again this week.

The undis­puted cham­pion of my page rage is their un­flinch­ing CEO, Ross McEwan.

His long-awaited ap­pear­ance for a sup­posed grilling by an all-party group of MPs at a West­min­ster’s Scot­tish Af­fairs Com­mit­tee was but child’s play to some­one so skilled in the arts of de­fend­ing the in­de­fen­si­ble.

Hon­estly, if brass necks were solid items of jew­ellery, then he would be wear­ing one so large and heavy he wouldn’t be able to lift his head to brush his teeth.

Then again, I must ad­mit that his per­for­mance was quite im­pres­sive.

If you were hop­ing he would cave in un­der pres­sure when asked to jus­tify his de­ci­sion to close a fur­ther 62 Scot­tish branches, then you were liv­ing in cloud cuckoo land.

Not a glove was laid on him and the RBS, nor will there be as long as the Gov­ern­ment, which owns 71% of the bank on be­half of the tax­payer, ab­jectly re­fuses to be­come di­rectly in­volved.

When asked by com­mit­tee chair, the SNP’s Pete Wishart MP, if he recog­nised the anger of cus­tomers in Scot­land, Mr McEwan said he did but then sim­ply talked of the praise RBS had re­ceived from some cus­tomers for their new app. He also de­fended the branch clo­sures, say­ing the moves were in re­sponse to cus­tomer choices.

In ef­fect he used the oc­ca­sion as a plat­form to jus­tify the RBS’s un­car­ing at­ti­tude to­wards their loyal cus­tomers and their greed-soaked, profit-driven poli­cies. And he suc­ceeded. Worse was to come. News that RBS had fi­nally reached a set­tle­ment fig­ure, a fine of $4.9 bil­lion, with the US Jus­tice De­part­ment to close their in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the sales of RBS fi­nan­cial prod­ucts be­fore the bank­ing crash had me shak­ing my head in dis­be­lief.

Why are the RBS al­lowed to just walk away? The or­di­nary man in the street would cer­tainly not be granted the same benev­o­lence from our law courts.

Why are they al­lowed to pay money, which may be just a tiny drop in the ocean to such a huge bank, but it is our money – that’s you and me, the or­di­nary Bri­tish tax­payer – be­cause we own 71% of the RBS, re­mem­ber?

It seems we are again be­ing stuffed by both the RBS and the UK Gov­ern­ment, pay­ing not only for the bank’s global dis­cred­ited busi­ness deal­ings, but also any fines they in­cur when they are caught, but we are also fund­ing a more stream­lined and less ac­count­able ver­sion of the RBS in the fu­ture.

If the gov­ern­ment can erad­i­cate the rat pop­u­la­tion on South Ge­or­gia, surely they can do the same in our bank­ing sys­tem?

Ross McEwan, CEO of RBS

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