Deluded? RBS A Toxic Brand That Will Never Be Cleansed

The Guardian Jill Treanor

From RBS to rbs: bank seeks to decapitalise, literally

Bailed-out bank plans to rebrand including a new lower-case logo and making its NatWest arm more prominent – all to help clean up its tarnished image

The RBS logo
Now you see it … plans are afoot to replace the logo with lower-case letters. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA

Royal Bank of Scotland is planning a new logo to symbolise the bailed-out bank’s retrenchment from globe-straddling institution to a slimmed-down operation in the wake of the banking crash.

The bank hopes to partly repair its tarnished image by giving its corporate acronym a lower-case makeover by axing the bold RBS logo and replacing it with the more modest rbs.

The NatWest name will also become more prominent in England and Wales under the proposals which are expected to see the scaled-back investment banking division rebadged as RBS Markets.

As a result of the latest ideas, the distinctive blue RBS logo is expected to be stripped from the bailed-out bank’s two flagship office buildings in the City of London and replaced with NatWest next year.

The increased prominence of the NatWest brand in England and Wales is being forced upon the bank by the EU, which stipulated it must sell off branches as a result of its taxpayer rescue. These are the 300 RBS branches in England and Wales and a handful of NatWest branches in Scotland which from next year will be replaced by the Williams & Glyn brand and listed on the stock market.

RBS boss Ross McEwan has signalled that a branding exercise is being planned in recent presentations, pointing to the appointment of a new chief marketing officer. Last month, McEwan told a conference: “Strong market positions will be held by all of our primary brands serving customers across all the markets we know we can win in. The appointment of our new chief marketing officer is a key first step in this and you will be hearing much more about this in 2016.” Changes have already been made in Scotland where the full Royal Bank of Scotland name is used on high streets rather than the abbreviated version

RBS appears to have scrapped ideas for renaming the bank, which was bailed out with £45bn of taxpayer funds during 2008 and 2009 when global expansion and the takeover of Dutch bank ABN Amro left the bank’s capital spread too thinly.

RBS has also been tarnished by a wave of scandals, ranging from Libor and foreign exchange rigging to allegations of bad treatment of small business customers.

Since taking over from Stephen Hester in October 2013, McEwan has focused the bank on the high street and intends to have a presence in 13 countries rather than the 51 in 2009.

It is a step change from a decade ago when the RBS logo was aimed at a global audience – plastered on Formula One cars and greeting travellers arriving at Edinburgh airport. It remains to be seen what the implications are for its branding of the RBS Six Nations Championship.

The exercise is in its early stages and the logo used by RBS – a four-cornered shape known internally as the daisy wheel – is likely to be removed from literature sent to investors and at corporate headquarters. However, it will remain on any customer-facing brand.

A number of other changes are also thought to be under consideration, such as a new brand aimed at the mortgage market. RBS also has a number of other brands, including the upmarket bank Coutts.

RBS said: “We are, and always have been, a bank of brands and as part of our strategy to build a stronger, simpler, fairer bank we are directing our efforts to make each of our customer brands number one in their respective markets. Our brands are our interface with our customers and through them we will be able to connect more deeply with customers and rebuild pride in the great things these brands do for our customers. The collective success of our brands is what will make us Britain’s best bank.”

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