RBS remains a national disgrace. It will reach a “milestone” when it shows itself sorry.


There has been some good banter on linked off the back of my blog on hand-outs to kids. The Resolution Foundation’s proposals to up taxes for those working longer and hand-out a tidy wedge to kids (to get them owning property) has the merit of drawing opinion – but little merit else.

Listening to Wake up to Money, I was struck by a woman from the City, cooing over the RBS’ lucky escape (only £3.1bn in US fines) and how we could now expect business as usual at the bank. Let’s remind ourselves that this bank was responsible, not just for screwing up the American housing market, but a host of small businesses in the UK. The money that the UK tax-payer has poured into it , to keep it afloat, is money that has not been spent keeping hospitals properly staffed, libraries open and vulnerable people protected.

Q. What do RBS and millennials have in common? – 

A. a sense of entitlement to my money!

An alternative way from Julian Richer

The other person on Wake up to Money was Julian Richer, who sounded like Richard Branson’s kid brother and made a lot more sense. He talked about the responsibilities of his shareholders to keep his business honest, outlined what he considered responsible capitalism and talked about the social good that a good business can do. He also talked of the financial and behavioural benefit to him, of being a good boss.

Seething with anger as I am about the moral decrepitude displayed by RBS, I am heartened that Julian Richer and Micky Clarke, took the opportunity to distinguish between businesses that run their strategy with reference to the numbers on the balance sheet, and businesses that are concerned about what they produce and how it’s delivered . (Way too long a sentence – born out of the passion of the moment!).

Should RBS be brought back into the fold?

RBS has never properly said sorry to the tax-payer. Those who were the architects of its demise in 2008, sloped off with their pensions and their bonuses. They may not have got much from their share options, but they are not languishing in prison, as they undoubtedly would be were they in other jurisdictions. Fred and his lackeys got off pretty lightly.

Since 2008, RBS has lurched from one disaster to another, rotten to the core, it has spent its time repairing its balance sheet but it has done little to repair its reputation. Despite its excruciating ads, conning us into believing it is a caring institution RBS (Nat West)  is still a national disgrace. I see no good argument for the Government holding on to its shares, let’s get shot of them and use the money for social good.

If RBS wants to convince me that it is worth my money (and it has some by dint of my investments in trackers), then I would like to see atonement. The paying of a fine in the US – and the talk of “milestones” from the CEO – is not atonement. RBS will reach a milestone when it says sorry and shows it means it.

Society needs Julian Richer not RBS.

Today, I have a number of meetings with people I have a great deal of time with. I’m going to a sustainable finance meeting at breakfast in the City, I’m meeting Gina Miller this morning, having lunch with Jeremy Olsen, tea with Olly Payne of Ford and finishing with drinks with Jenny Davidson of Three. All of these business people will be wanting to talk with me about the purpose of what they are doing and how it works for good.

I wish I knew Julian Richer, he sounds my kind of businessman. Society needs guys like him, women like Gina and Jenny, actuaries like Olly, consultants like Jeremy. In the gloom the gold gathers the light to it.

The world envisioned by the Resolution Foundation, is one where the endeavour of the aforementioned is ironed out – flattened – and money is dished out to millennials so that their entitlement to own a property, run a business or have a well-funded pension can be met.

But there is no such entitlement. The entitlement is to those who are vulnerable, the physically and mentally sick, those who have suffered catastrophic loss and those who for whatever reason, cannot otherwise escape poverty. Society should be focussing on supporting those who otherwise should not be supported.

No bail out for the millennials either

It should not be bailing out whingeing millennials who would be better employed getting their heads down and working their way to what they want. This is a country of great opportunity, as any immigrant knows. This is not a nation that takes money from those who are working and old and dishes it out to those who are young – to meet some pseudo-Thatcherite notion of “property for all”.

Nor is it a nation that should tolerate organisations like RBS, who put balance sheet before people. It is a nation with a strong moral compass, a nation that knows what it wants and how we want to be Governed.

My personal politics side with Julian Richer in condemning zero hour contracts, ensuring that people have the opportunity to rent reasonable property at reasonable prices and I want to see a well funded NHS and proper wages in retirement. I believe that achieving things is within the scope of our national wealth.

I am not compassionate about RBS or any of the other institutions that took our national finances to the brink, ten years ago. I am not celebrating their milestone fine and I hope that we take this opportunity to ensure that the businesses we invest in in the next ten years operate on the basis outlined by Julian Richer (and the CSFI sustainable finance group).

As for the millennials, you should look out for each other – I will look out for you. But you’re not getting my money, unless I choose to give it you.

I wish I could say the same for RBS.



About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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2 Responses to RBS remains a national disgrace. It will reach a “milestone” when it shows itself sorry.

  1. George Kirrin says:

    I’m also struck by how the major banks’ DB pension schemes seem to be moving up the league tables of the UK’s largest pension schemes.

    RBS may not be able to pay a dividend, but they’ve been able to announce a further £3bn of one-off deficit contribution to follow the £4.2bn in 2016.

    Yes, they’ve capped accruing benefits at 2% real, and yet the main scheme’s duration isn’t reducing – the 2017 annual report shows its duration is increasing (to 21 years) not diminishing as you might expect. Why was the scheme not closed altogether after the 2007-2009 financial crisis?

    The bank pension schemes are also seeing some of the largest transfers out month-by-month on generous terms, which no doubt will put pressure on the banks to inject yet more cash ahead of shareholders (which in the RBS case means we taxpayers).

  2. Richard says:

    Good stuff as usual Henry

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