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As bank faces IT and privatisation questions...

RBS ‘likely to miss Williams & Glyn sell-off deadline’

RBS GogarburnRoyal Bank of Scotland is struggling to meet the deadline set by European officials to spin-off the ‘challenger’ bank Williams & Glyn, according to City sources.

Insiders are claiming that the timetable for selling the bank by the end of next year – most likely through a flotation – is too tight.

The European Commission has demanded that the 300+ branches are carved out of RBS/NatWest as a condition of its bail-out in 2008-09.

RBS has invested heavily in the process and Daily Business reported last week that one in five advertised jobs are for Williams & Glyn.

An extension has already been granted to RBS and there were recent reports that  the European Commission may demand that the carved out bank is ‘bulked up’.

Adding more assets, including more branches and capital, would increase its share of the small and medium sized business market from 5% to something more competitive.

According to one report today, the Treasury has gone back to officials in Brussels to beg for more time. One new issue is whether RBS can install a new IT system in Williams & Glyn in time for its flotation. Those concerns have intensified after last week’s meltdown, forcing the bank to admit it needs a complete overhaul of its ageing technology.

New figures show that of the 1,235 positions advertised on the RBS jobs website, 240 are linked to Williams & Glyn. Almost 150 are related to risk and technology, reflecting a new emphasis on compliance.

Reviving the Williams & Glyn name, which disappeared from high streets in 1985, is part of the government’s push to create a number of ‘challenger’ banks.

RBS has set aside £1.5 billion to spin-off the bank, originally known as Williams & Glyn’s, and it is believed more than 4,000 staff are working on the project.

Jim Brown, chief executive of Ulster Bank, will take the same role at Williams & Glyn. Ireland’s top paid banker succeeds John Maltby.

Directors are likely to be quizzed about progress on the carve-out the annual general meeting on Tuesday when shareholders will also press them on the IT issues and on reports that the government plans to make the bank shoulder the cost of selling down its 79% shareholding.

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