Alison Rose, head of commercial and private banking at RBS, said she supported the idea of “aspirational targets” for the bank.
More than half of its staff are women, at 53% of the total. In clerical jobs the percentage is 67%, but the proportion of executive roles held by women at RBS is 20%, and none of these women sits on the main board. Rose is one of two women on the 11-strong executive committee, one rung below board level.
Previously in a senior role in RBS’s investment bank, Rose said the financial services industry was notorious for having a lack of women in senior roles. “As a business head it is a business imperative. If I’m not recruiting, retaining or developing the most talented workforce I possibly can, I’m not going to be delivering the best results … it is ridiculous we don’t have more talented women coming through the organisation into the financial services sector,” said Rose.
In her new division – which employs 9,500 and generates around a third of RBS’s operating profit – a quarter of its relationship managers, who deal directly with customers, are female.
Asked if RBS is considering targets for hiring women, she said: “We are.”
She added: “What I’m focusing on is a long-term programme that gets more women up to the board level.”
This year Lloyds Banking Group set a goal for 40% of the top 5,000 roles to be held by women by 2020, up from 28% now.
The lack of women in senior executive roles at British companies has been under scrutiny since 2011 when Mervyn Davies, in a government-commissioned report, set a goal for FTSE 100 companies to double the number of women in boardrooms to 25% by 2015. While women now account for more than 20% of boardroom roles, the majority of these are non-executives, with only 7% of executive roles held by women. At RBS, three of the eleven boardroom directors are female non-executives.
The gender balance in FTSE 100 boardrooms will be updated next week when a half-yearly report is delivered to the business secretary, Vince Cable, who has been a champion of increasing the number of women in boardrooms.
Promoted to head one of the three new divisions set up by RBS boss Ross McEwan in February, Rose presented her strategy for the division earlier this week. Rose said she intended to “refresh, retrain and repopulate” the workforce in a unit that provides banking services to companies big enough to be in the FTSE 250 index and individuals wealthy enough to be banked by Coutts, the private banking arm of RBS. Rose pointed to a need to train staff by bringing in professional accreditation, which covers a range of issues including ethics. The division has seen a 50% cut in management jobs and 120 products removed from sale in recent months.
Rose’s research shows the NatWest brand performing better than its parent company, RBS. There is, she said, a “brand drag that comes from RBS”. She said the answer was not to ditch the RBS brand and replace it with NatWest but deal with the issues, such as negative publicity about its treatment of small business customers in its soon to be disbanded global restructuring group.
To counter criticism from politicians that the bank is withdrawing loans from businesses, RBS has written to 300,000 small business customers offering £12bn of new lending. Some £1.3bn has been taken up and customers have said they might use another £2.6bn.
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