RBS branches to receive £700m cash injection

State-backed bank says money will be spent on refurbishing its 2,066 branches and improving customer services

Royal Bank of Scotland is to invest £700m between 2013 and 2016 in improving its branches as part of a shift in focus towards its domestic lending business.

The state-backed bank, which owns NatWest and Ulster Bank, said the money would be spent on refurbishments across its network of 2,066 branches and initiatives to improve services to its 15.4 million customers within the UK.

RBS, 82%-owned by the government, said it would improve complaints handling, allow customers to open accounts more quickly, simplify the processing of mortgages and provide new self-service machines in its branches.

The bank is concentrating on its routine retail operations having scaled back its huge investment banking business since it was rescued with a £45.5bn state bailout after the 2008 financial crisis.

The government wants it to focus on lending to British households and small businesses.

The initiatives are part of a strategy set by Ross McEwan, who was appointed head of RBS’s UK retail business in August last year, joining from Commonwealth Bank of Australia, where he was in charge of retail banking services for five years.

In a presentation to investors, McEwan said he planned to make RBS the best retail bank in Britain: “There’s a big space there for it. I’ve not met anyone who believes there’s great retail banking in the UK.”

He said the bank would invest in rejuvenating its NatWest brand, which comprises 80% of its business, and in rebuilding its RBS brand, and growing market share in Scotland.

McEwan faces a challenge in restoring the image of the bank after a computer systems failure caused disruption to millions of its customers last year, while the bank faces a £3.5bn compensation bill for mis-selling.

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