Sunday, December 11, 2011

Did the Chairman of RBS just offer to provide ultra transparency?

In his Telegraph column, Sir Philip Hampton, Chairman of Royal Bank of Scotland, observed that RBS will be a business with a 'high standards of transparency'.

The high standard of transparency is ultra transparency.

Implementing ultra transparency would require RBS to disclose on an on-going basis its current asset, liability and off-balance sheet exposure details.

Not an unreasonable standard of transparency for a bank that the Financial Services Authority report will show that the regulators did not properly supervise.

Not an unreasonable standard of transparency for a bank that is majority owned by the taxpayers.

Not an unreasonable standard of transparency for a bank that wants to set a new standard for corporate performance and behavior.
When Stephen Hester and I took over the leadership of RBS three years ago, we reviewed much of the same ground. The task was to stabilise the bank and put it back on a sustainable footing. We had to understand what had gone wrong and which staff had to be held accountable for their part in the bank’s failure. 
The change programme at RBS has been huge. We have aggressively reduced the bank’s exposures, substantially reducing a balance sheet that was once the world’s biggest. We have fundamentally changed the way we pay our staff. Bonuses are not only smaller, but linked to the long-term strategy of the bank as they always should have been in the past. 
Importantly, we are undertaking a huge transformation of the way we support our customers. There has been no shortage of examples of how banks failed their customers in recent years. Through our industry-leading customer charter and reforms right across our businesses we are seeking constant enhancements to the service we provide the people who rely on us. We are working to become Britain’s most helpful bank and we will become vastly more open and transparent as we progress. 
The result of all of this is an RBS that is greatly changed from the bank I walked into three years ago or the one that is described in today’s report. Our leadership is new, with all senior executives who were responsible for the bank’s crisis no longer in the company. We are safer and stronger with capital and liquidity levels among the strongest in Europe. 
But RBS is not yet the bank that we want it to be. The new RBS that we are building will be a business with high standards of transparency, customer support, and community responsibility. We want to show that the painful lessons of this crisis can be applied to the creation of an organisation that sets a new standard for corporate performance and behaviour. 

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