Furious shareholders attacked branch closures at bailed-out Royal Bank of Scotland as its finance chief quit.
RBS was criticised by investors at its annual meeting for axing more than 420 branches this year alone – a move campaigners claim is ripping the heart out of isolated towns and villages.
It came as finance director Ewen Stevenson stands down to take up another job elsewhere.
RBS was attacked by investors at its annual meeting for axing more than 420 branches this year alone – a move which critics claims is ripping the heart out of isolated towns and villages
The 52-year-old has been at RBS for four years and will not leave until a successor has been found.
Seen as a possible successor to boss Ross McEwan, Stevenson would not say where he is going but it is thought to be another top role at a big bank.
Share Sale Warning
Falling stock markets across Europe could delay a long-awaited sale of taxpayers’ stake in the Royal Bank of Scotland, bosses have warned.
Finance director Ewen Stevenson said that now is not the best time for a sale of the state’s 70.5 per cent holding.
Markets have been struck by political turmoil in Italy, with bank shares particularly under pressure due to fears of a fresh crisis in the eurozone.
Stevenson said: ‘I would be surprised if now is an optimum time to sell stocks.’
The Government hopes to sell £15billion of shares by 2023, around two-thirds of its stake.
However, it is facing a near-£26.2billion loss as the lender’s shares are now well below the average 502p price paid.
It came as shareholders blasted closures. RBS has shut more, more than 40 per cent of its branches – 1,000 – in the past decade.
Investor James Caldwell, an accountant, told the meeting in Edinburgh he had encouraged clients to switch to RBS after their nearby Clydesdale and Lloyds branches shut.
But RBS then axed its own final outlet in his part of rural Scotland. ‘There’s a lack of consideration on behalf of the bank when it doesn’t engage with customers and staff regarding potential closures,’ he said.
Shareholder Mary Alexander said: ‘It’s not clear that RBS fully appreciates the damage closures will do to those communities and businesses which rely on branches.’ In Scotland, RBS has pledged to reconsider plans to shut ten branches after pressure from MPs, and vowed not to announce any new Scottish closures.
But McEwan insisted that there could be no change of course overall at RBS, which is still 70.5 per cent-owned by the state.
It will this year axe more than 420 branches across the UK, around a third of its remaining network, leaving 850. RBS claims customers are flocking to the internet, abandoning branches.
But campaigners argue the lender is driving users online by cutting faster than necessary and spending millions of pounds promoting its internet services.
McEwan said: ‘We realise this is difficult for our customers, it is difficult for our colleagues and for the communities who have grown up with these branches. But we must respond to changing customer trends.’
Trade union Unite protested outside, with Scottish secretary Pat Rafferty saying: ‘Communities are built around things like banks, and when you start taking these fundamental parts of the community away then the communities themselves are taken away.’
RBS shares fell 1.4 per cent, or 3.9p, to 276.1p yesterday.