EXCLUSIVE: RBS looks to EU banking licenses amid Brexit uncertainty

Written by Mark McLaughlin on 18 January 2017 in News

RBS Scotland board chairman says its European banking licenses could afford the bank some flexibility after Brexit

Malcolm Buchanan (Photo credit: RBS)

RBS could use its banking licenses in Europe to maintain access to the European Union if Brexit disrupts Britain's international financial services, its Scottish chairman has said.

Malcolm Buchanan, managing director of corporate and commercial banking in Scotland, said RBS is "still trying to work out what Brexit means" and is scoping out various scenarios to maintain access to Europe.
 
On Tuesday, Theresa May warned hardline Europeans seeking to punish Britain for leaving the EU that any deal that disrupts trade between the UK and the single market would backfire as European firms would also be denied access to the City of London.
 
But Buchanan suggested Ulster Bank, which is licensed to operate in the Republic of Ireland, or the existing banking licences RBS has in other EU Member States will ensure the bank continues to operate in the EU.
 
In an exclusive interview with Holyrood, conducted before May confirmed she intends to take the UK out of the single market, Buchanan said its European banking licenses could afford the bank "some flexibility".
 
However, he was reluctant to speculate on how this might work in practice while the post-Brexit landscape remains unclear.
 
“Like a lot of people, we are still trying to work out what Brexit means," he told Holyrood.
 
“There isn’t a day goes by when you pick up a newspaper and people are talking about not having enough information about what it means.
 
“I guess being 90 per cent focussed in the UK means the impact on us might be less than it was a few years ago. 
 
"Financial services, specifically, probably has a few questions about passporting and access to the EU.
 
“Our chairman is involved in a task force in terms of the government’s consultation with various industry sectors, so we are involved in the debate about what will emerge. But like a lot of people it will be a case of us understanding developments as they come along.
 
“One of the things that we do still have from the old RBS is a couple of banking licenses in Europe, including in the Republic of Ireland.
 
“So they might afford us some flexibility on how we might access Europe in different scenarios, depending on what Brexit looks like.
 
“If you need to base some people in the European Union zone after the UK leaves, the fact that we have got banking licenses in some countries might allow us to do that.”
 
Buchanan, chair of the RBS Scotland Board, is leading an effort to refocus RBS Group towards its customer facing brands.
 
He said: "RBS is the legacy bank and the Royal Bank of Scotland is the go-forward bank - even though it has been around for 290 years. 

“You’ve got Ulster Bank in Ireland and you’ve got Natwest in England and Wales.
 
“These banks were part of the RBS Group. That has all now changed. RBS Group is no longer the customer facing global brand and the Royal Bank, NatWest and Ulster Bank are now the main high street brands. 
 
“What we are really trying to do is reconnect the bank back into the regions and nations where we are doing more of our business these days."
 
:: Read the exclusive interview with Malcolm Buchanan, chair of the RBS Scotland board, in the latest issue of Holyrood.

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