RBS may sell 'Queen's bank' Coutts International arm

Coutts sign Zurich Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Coutts's client entrance in Zurich

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is looking into selling Coutts International, the overseas arm of the private bank that has the Queen's account, in a move that could raise £600m ($1bn).

A number of potential buyers around the world are thought to be interested in buying all or part of the bank, which was founded in the 18th century.

Coutts International operates in seven countries and has 1,200 employees.

It would see Coutts split into two, one based in the UK and one in Zurich.

The latter would run its operations that manage about £20bn in countries including Hong Kong, Singapore, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.


The internal memo to staff said: "We will... work with local management teams to explore options including merging the remainder of the current Coutts International business, considering joint ventures or a sale, thereby reducing RBS's footprint internationally."

It added: "There are no immediate changes for individuals in these businesses and it is important that we continue to work together to deliver for our customers."

Coutts's international operations were slimmed down two years ago after the Royal Bank of Canada bought its Latin American, Caribbean and African private banking arms.

Coutts is one of more than 100 Swiss banks which have come forward to help US prosecutors looking into possible tax avoidance by private banking clients.

RBS is 81% owned by the taxpayer after a £45bn rescue in 2008 brought on by the financial crisis.

Recently its quarterly financial performance showed a £1bn profit, outstripping expectations to such an extent the release of its figures was brought forward by a week.

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