On her first day as RBS CEO, Alison Rose shares her vision for the future with colleagues and explains what they can expect from her. Read the full speech here.
01 Nov 2019
My story I am delighted to be here this morning, on my first day as CEO of the bank, to be talking to all of you.
For those of you who don’t know me – I started at NatWest 27 years ago as a graduate and have worked in many different jobs across the group since then.
When I reflect back, each of the roles I have undertaken have been defined by the people I have worked with.
One of the proudest achievements in my career is to have played a part in how the culture at RBS has been shaped, and to see the commitment of the teams around me to our customers.
It is an enormous privilege to be asked to take on the role of CEO and the leadership of the bank as we start the next phase of our journey.
I am also incredibly proud of the progress and momentum that has been delivered over the past five years.
We are a very different bank today – one that is stronger, safer, and a real partner to our customers in all senses of the word.
The amazing contribution and passion that I see every day from our team – all of you – is why we have achieved so much – and why I believe we have so much to be confident about as we move forward together.
While the world around us is changing rapidly, and our society faces perhaps more uncertainty today than ever – there are also so many terrific opportunities for RBS.
As we now look to the future, we face new challenges, but also have a chance to build on the strong foundations in place and capitalise on many of the exciting opportunities that present themselves.
Vision and our role My vision is for us to build a strong business, a bank that embraces the future and delivers on its promises.
It is also my vision to build a bank that is purpose-led, a bank that champions the communities we serve and helps them to thrive.
Our ambition is to be the best bank for families, businesses and communities across the UK. We should never underestimate the positive impact that we can have on our customers’ lives and the privilege and responsibility that goes with this.
For millions of our customers, we are the organisation they trust to help them – whether it is their day to day banking or the bigger moments in their financial lives.
It’s our job to be there right through their lives - from the start of their financial journey as we help teach children about money – through to opening their first accounts – and to supporting families with their day to day financial needs.
We also have a role to play in supporting those starting businesses or as employees – and helping them save, invest and plan for their futures, and those of their children.
We often see extraordinary examples of our impact in customers’ lives.
Recently, I felt incredibly proud of the bank reading the hundreds of inspiring examples of everyday great service colleagues shared during national customer service week.
One story I read was about an elderly customer in the Scottish borders sadly passed away. But before he died he wrote 4 letters – 1 to family, 1 to his carer, 1 to his friend and 1 to his local branch. I think the fact this customer took the time to write to our colleagues is a great example of the privilege and impact we have as part of our customers’ lives.
These relationships matter, and as we seek to truly build the best bank for businesses and families, we need to make sure that we understand the needs of our customers and where we can make the biggest impact.
We should never forget that our customers’ needs will always vary enormously and change rapidly.
I am a mother, I am a CEO, an employee and employer – I carry many considerations, dreams and aspirations – and so do all of our customers.
We need to be flexible and agile enough to respond to multifaceted and quickly changing needs and ambitions.
So, what does it mean to be a purpose-led bank today? This goes beyond business.
Having purpose means playing our part in tackling some of the wider societal problems that can hold people back or threaten their future.
There are three areas as a team where I believe we can drive better outcomes for the UK:
The first is in financial capability – helping our customers make the most of their money by building their financial skills and confidence – whether that’s teaching schoolchildren through our MoneySense programmes or supporting families to save for their futures.
The second is in enterprise.
We already have an impressive record in supporting enterprise as the largest lender to small businesses.
The 1100 new business that start up every day in the UK contribute hugely to the economy, create jobs and change lives.
But starting and growing a business is tough and lonely, and can be harder than it needs to be.
We can make a real difference by helping remove unnecessary barriers and help our customers to thrive.
And finally on climate – one of the defining challenges of our lifetime – one that will only become more urgent.
We’ll be taking bold actions to play a driving role in helping the UK transition to a low carbon economy.
These three areas will play a central role in our strategy and our priorities moving forward.
And as we continue to focus on the businesses and families that we support – we must also ensure bank’s strategic priorities allow it to adapt and grow for the future – a future that is safe, simple, and smart:
Safety and soundness must underpin everything we do – a strong balance sheet and intelligent risk-taking will make us the partner for today and the future.
We must continue to simplify the bank – we remain too complex – we have too many processes and are too cumbersome – which gets in the way of delivering the great customer experience and value we need to drive.
Continuing to reduce the bad costs across the bank, safely and at pace, will be critical – so we can invest further in our technology.
Using data and technology to help us understand our customers and deliver intelligent solutions will be a key part of our future plans. We need to invest, continually evolve and move at pace to respond to the needs of our customers.
Our new leadership team and I are already setting out more detailed plans I will share with you in February.
Before I open up for questions – I want to touch on my vision for what it means to be part of this bank – and how I want to support and invest in the potential of each and every one of you.
We have made huge progress in building a great place to work and developing a culture where everyone can be the best they can be.
But we have more to do.
I am fully committed to ensuring that we continue to invest in you and build a great environment for you to thrive.
The pace of change in this highly competitive market is not going to slow down – so we need to ensure we prepare ourselves, remain curious, invest in new skills and capabilities and have a culture of continuous learning – which will be an integral part of our development.
As a first step towards this we will be establishing a bank-wide learning academy – this will provide easy access to the best learning available and allow you to build a wide range of capabilities both for your role today and the changing roles of the future.
I hope this will become a cornerstone of our ambition to be a lifelong learning organisation.
We must also continue to invest in our culture – to create a truly inclusive environment.
This is an area close to my heart and one I feel very passionate about. I’m delighted that we have in the room a great example of some of our new team members – our new NatWest Digital and Innovation Apprentices are here today.
This scheme offers a 4-year paid apprenticeship with the bank and working with partners – to candidates from under-represented backgrounds – after which they will finish with a full degree.
Just like me, it’s their first day in their new jobs – and I hope you have the same sense of being nervous and excited as I am.
Good luck and a very warm welcome to you.
I also want to continue championing the great work of our employee-led networks – who advocate challenge and shape the environment for all of you.
Over the last 5 years I have been the executive sponsor of the ELNs – and have seen the great work and passion of these volunteers – creating change, challenge and debate for their members.
As I take on my new role I will continue to act as the sponsor for the ELNs and working with them on our colleague’s agenda.
As well as creating a place for us to learn and develop – I want to ensure that we that there are ways for us to talk to each other, share ideas, give feedback and continue to build upon a culture where we have open and constructive challenge and a safe place to work.
Many of you will be familiar with the junior management team structures we have in various parts of the business.
We will be bringing that together to create a bank-wide junior management team that will provide an important forum for our future talent to share feedback and views.
As well as this, over the coming weeks and months I will also establish regular rhythm of workplace sessions – and a new way of collecting and responding to the key questions you would like answered.
Your views matter and creating a culture where people can speak out freely and openly is key. I can promise you that there is no such thing as a bad question – and I really want to hear from you.