The "net promoter score" for small businesses was awful while retail customers aren't exactly singing the bank's praises
If you set aside the shadow of an enormous looming US fine for flogging dodgy mortgages before they caused the financial crisis, RBS is looking chipper, which isn’t something you typically associate with this bank.
Profits for the first three months of this year trebled to nearly £800m amd the sector’s analysts, most of whom had predicted a lot less, came as close to saying “yowza” as they ever get.
You might have heard something similar coming from Chancellor of the Exchequer's office too. If the Americans would just make their minds up on that penalty it looks like we might finally be able to sell the taxpayer's stake in the damn thing!
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The great big bluebottle buzzing angrily around the bank’s tub of ointment? Customers. They’re not quite so cheerful.
Banks are complicated beasts, but the two big drivers for these results were lower than expected impairment charges from bad loans, and the way the bank has been hacking and slashing when it comes to costs.
Customers are feeling impact of that and they’re not happy. Small business ones in particular. They have lost their relationship managers and now have to deal with calls centres. They’re also putting up with the disappearance of branches, something that’s also upsetting the retail customers that rely on them.
RBS has traditionally been rather good at looking after people in remote areas, of which there are a lot in the country whose name it bears.
Not any more, says Mike Cherry, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses. His members often have no choice but to use branches because of the need to deposit cash. Unfortunately, "while an expansion of mobile bank van services in Scotland was promised it has emerged that many communities are actually facing shorter visits from these lifeline vehicles".
That really isn’t a good look given that the apalling scandal over the way the old RBS Global Restructuring Group treated troubled business borrowers is still very much fresh in the mind.
Mr Cherry thinks the public is entitled to rather better from an institution that has received billions of pounds in taxpayer support. He’s got a point.
But we have to make money, says RBS, a bank that spent the best part of a decade losing it. Lots of it.
Most businesses find themselves struggling to do that if their customers get fed up enough to walk out the door.
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RBS’s own slides show that its customers are pretty fed up. The “net promotor score” – a measure of how likely someone is to say good things – for RBS small business customers is horrid at minus 22. It was at minus 4 as recently as the third quarter of 2016. For personal customers it was minus 14. NatWest – the name the bank's English arm trades under – did better at minus 10, and plus 12 respectively but that still isn’t anything to write home about.
What might help it weather the storm is that bank customers tend to be sticky, partly because switching accounts is a pain, but partly because of the uncomfortable fact that most of its rivals aren't any better. You only need to look at the appalling mess TSB has been making of the introduction of a new IT system over the last week to see that.
If you were to ask me to design a logo for the industry I might be inclined to come up with something like a raised middle finger. Perhaps trade body the British Bankers Association should adopt it?