Rory Cullinan’s departure from RBS just doesn’t add up

As RBS’s executive had already decided what they wanted to do with the investment bank and how quickly they wanted to do it, what was there left to disagree about?

Eight different men have now been in charge of RBS’s investment arm in a little over two years Photo: Getty Images

A man walks into a branch of The Royal Bank of Scotland in the City of London

Another one bites the dust. Earlier this week the Royal Bank of Scotland announced that Rory Cullinan, the head of the UK lender’s investment banking arm,was stepping down. He has only been in the job since the end of February.

His departure means that, by my count, eight different men have now been in charge of the bank’s investment arm in the little over two years since John Hourican fell on his sword following the Libor scandal in January 2013.

In fairness, Hourican was replaced by three co-heads and Cullinan has been replaced by two (Chris Marks and Mark Bailie). But even so, the revolving door at what is now known as the corporate and institutional banking unit (RBS’s investment bank has had almost as many names as bosses) is fast becoming a study in perpetual motion – there have been four different management teams in less than 27 months.

This latest changing of the guard is the most perplexing of all. The root cause of Cullinan’s departure has been billed as a disagreement over strategy. But the more one ponders that possibility, the less sense it makes.

RBS had only just settled on the strategy for the investment bank – shrink it and shrink it fast. The number of staff in the unit is to be cut from 18,000 to 4,000; the number of countries in which it operates will be reduced from 38 to 13; the value of the risk-weighted assets – a measure of the size of its balance sheet – will be shrunk from £107bn to around £35bn by 2019.


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