RBS to Cut 600 Retail-Bank Jobs, Close Branches, Union Says

  • Edinburgh-based RBS said to consider additional U.K. job cuts
  • CEO Ross McEwan wants to pay first dividend since bailout

Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, Britain’s largest taxpayer-owned lender, is planning to eliminate about 600 jobs at its U.K. consumer bank as it closes branches and will probably discuss further cuts with employees, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The Edinburgh-based lender will cut about 200 positions across London and the South East of England, while a further 400 jobs will go in the Midlands, East and the North of the country, Unite said in a statement Thursday. The bank will also close about 32 branches as part of the changes, it said. A spokesman for RBS said the bank had to “adapt” to meet changing customer demands and to ensure it remains viable in the future.

“With job losses across the country and surviving branches on reduced hours, there’s no doubt this latest round of cuts will hurt the bank’s customers as well as our members,” Unite Regional Officer Lyn Turner said in the statement.

Chief Executive Officer Ross McEwan, 58, is cutting thousands of jobs and shedding assets around the world as he attempts to resume dividends for the first time since the bank’s 45.5 billion-pound ($64 billion) taxpayer-funded bailout in 2008. Low interest rates and slowing economic growth are pushing him and other bank executives to take out more costs to maintain profitability.

‘Difficult News’

“This is clearly difficult news for staff,” a spokesman for the bank’s NatWest unit said in a statement, without providing further detail on the cuts. “We are doing everything we can to support them, including seeking redeployment opportunities wherever possible and ensuring that compulsory redundancies are kept to a minimum.”

RBS will probably consult with employees to discuss possible jobs cuts in other parts of Britain, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. That would include Scotland, Wales and South West England and could lead to a similar number of job losses, said one of the people who asked not to be identified because the details are private.

RBS employed about 27,100 staff at its personal and business banking division in the U.K. and Ireland at the end of last year, out of around 87,800 employees across all operations. Reuters reported the 600 job cuts at the retail bank earlier on Thursday.

“We have to take more cost out of this organization,” McEwan told analysts on a call at the bank’s annual results in February. “We have to tough it up, and do it even further, given the rate environment going forward. Never an easy task.”

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