The Royal Bank of Scotland : Holding back
'Business as usual' content offers the opposite of reassurance.
The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), a major UK-based financial services group, offers no response to severe criticism of how it conducts its business.
RBS’s group website is signposted from the UK consumer site (rbs.co.uk) and has an animated featured content panel in which Corporate Responsibility is the end-of-sequence setting. A ‘Find out more’ prompt links to the Corporate Responsibility section, where the overview states “Corporate responsibility is about understanding the issues that matter most to our stakeholders and delivering our business with integrity and transparency”. Directly beneath this is a Key Issues paragraph which begins “In 2007 we strengthened…”; further down is ‘Message from Sir Tom McKillop’, a PDF of RBS’s then-chairman’s speech to an emergency general meeting in November 2008. There is no material obviously dealing with subsequent events, including Sir Tom’s resignation in mid-January, the bank’s ongoing government bail-out, and current public and ministerial criticism of its proposed £1 billion bonus plans for staff.
Corporate Governance, a section of Corporate Responsibility, has an overview which is clearly an end-of-year résumé of activity in 2007 and a sub-section titled ‘2008 priorities’.
RBS is in a dark place right now, reputation-wise, and finds itself at the eye of public outrage over the contribution of the UK’s banks to the current financial crisis and their conduct as events unfold. The latest blow is a televised grilling of its former CEO and chairman by a parliamentary sub-committee today (10 February). All this is being reported around the web as it unfolds, so how is RBS making its case – or its mea culpas – online? Seemingly by carrying on with business as normal, including waiting until its next annual corporate responsibility report is published before updating governance and responsibility content on the website. (While the Message from Sir Tom McKillop is an update of sorts it should surely have been succeeded by one from whoever was left at the helm following Sir Tom’s resignation more than three weeks ago.)
Amid the media feeding frenzy RBS should be exploiting its website for all it’s worth to put its side of stories such as the proposed bonus plan and to demonstrate the new regime’s commitment to sound corporate governance. It may think that ‘business as usual’ is a reassuring impression to give to people coming to its website but, in today’s clamour for banking reform, sticking with yesterday’s message is not going to bolster public confidence in RBS’s future conduct or competence.http://www.rbs.com/default.asp
First published on 10 February, 2009