Our updates

Response to the Independent Lending Review

In 2013 RBS and NatWest launched an Independent Lending Review, led by Sir Andrew Large and management consultants Oliver Wyman. The aim of the review was to identify steps we could take to enhance our support for SMEs. In November we published the report and committed to act on the recommendations.

Since then we have been working hard to make changes where they are needed, to ensure that we are the best UK bank to support business customers. This includes:

  • Expanding our lending to SME businesses
  • Making life easier for our customers and our staff by removing barriers and improving processes
  • Speeding up decision making
  • Making more decisions locally

We will continue to implement the recommendations from the Sir Andrew Large report over the months ahead and are already making good progress:

Clearer goals and simple structure:

  • We will increase gross term lending to SMEs by at least 10% to over £9bn in 2014, to ensure we can support thousands more businesses with their expansion plans.
  • We are simplifying our organisation from 7 to 3 divisions, and putting business managers and advisers back on the high street for start-ups and very small businesses. We will provide dedicated relationship managers and access to more sophisticated products and services as our business customers grow.
  • We have removed barriers and improved processes for our staff, over the last 3 months we have made over 60 changes to our processes to significantly speed up our lending process which has freed up more time for every relationship manager to spend with customers and drive more lending to businesses.
  • By the end of this year we will reduce and simplify the SME products we offer. The vast array of products banks currently offer serve only the industry; not our customers. Going forward, we will have a smaller number of simpler products and services..

Improved customer experience:

  • We will make all but the most complex business lending decisions in five days. If you have an idea for a business and need a loan to expand, you don’t have time for weeks and weeks of discussions with your bank. You will get a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from us, and you will get it quickly.
  • We want to make applying for a loan easy so we have launched a dedicated website for customers that provides a simple step by step guide to how our lending process works and what information the bank needs to make a lending decision. We have launched a new ‘loans online’ application process for our sole trader customers for loans under £25k, and we are working on enhancing this site over the coming months to launch a full online loan application process for SMEs..
  • We have improved account opening – 75% of all small business account applications are now completed within 48 hours. A new account opening system is currently being trialled with customers and will be rolled out during 2014.   
  • We have implemented a programme to reduce SME customer complaints by 50%, we aim to do this by the end of 2017.
  • We are working to ensure that none of our SME products are conditional on the customer buying another product or service with us.
  • We have appointed Clifford Chance to undertake an independent and thorough review of how we deal with distressed customers.

Easy access to our people and services:

  • We will put business bankers back on the high street with hundreds of staff in our branches that can help the small business customers open accounts, apply for loans, and get the help they need.
  • Since the beginning of 2013 we have put over 400 staff into customer support and business development roles where their only objective is to recruit and support customers – this includes 325 Business Specialists in branches.
  • We have created 40 new roles to focus on lending and business development.
  • We have launched a new Broker channel to reach out to SMEs, particularly those who may be reluctant to approach their bank for finance - we are now working with over 80 brokers and are beginning to see deal flow allowing us to support more businesses.

Confidence to borrow:

  • We are boosting business confidence to invest in growth. By the end of March 2014 we will have proactively contacted over 250,000 customers to outline how much additional funding the bank is willing to lend to their business, offering around £10bn of new lending.
  • We are empowering local staff - two thirds of lending decisions are being made locally without reference to anyone else.
  • Working with Chartered Banker, we are making additional investment in industry leading training which will lead to at least 90% of our Relationship Managers and Credit Officers holding an up-to-date and relevant Professional Qualification by the end of 2017.

Better outcomes for everybody:

  • We continue to point businesses to alternative sources of finance if we can’t support a loan application, this includes working with the BBA on a CDFI (Community Development Finance Institution) referral portal.  We are working to ensure that it is standard practice for all relationship managers to be able to advise customers on the variety of funding and support that they may be able to access through Government, business advice groups and alternative funders. This will include advice about more local options available to the customer.
  • We have implemented a programme to make all customers whose loan applications are declined aware of the appeals process.

Better communication:

  • We are working with FSB / BCC on a new customer survey. The independent survey will question 15,000 SMEs about satisfaction with their bank and the service it provides. This will give SMEs greater visibility of the relative position of different banks and promote a more informed choice. The first results from new FSB/BCC survey will be published in the Spring.
  • We aim to become the number one bank for SME customer service in the UK as measured by this new FSB/BCC survey.
  • We will stop confusing our customers with complicated language they cannot understand. We will explain our SME charges on one side of A4 in simple language.

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