RBS posts its first profit in 10 years

Royal Bank of Scotland has posted its first annual profit in a decade following its “spectacular fall from grace” that involved a taxpayer bailout and a series of scandals.

The bank, which is still 71%-owned by the government, made a profit of £752m in 2017, following a £7bn loss in 2016.

Chief executive, Ross McEwan, declared it a “symbolic moment” and an indication the banks was “putting the past behind us.”

“RBS was the largest bank in the world 10 years ago, with a balance sheet of £2.2tn, and it spectacularly fell from grace,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.

“We’ve been restructuring the bank, but it’s taken time and a lot of cost to come out of countries and businesses we didn’t want to be in.”

However, the bank is still facing potentially large fines from the Department of Justice in the US over the sale of financial products linked to risky mortgages, which is likely to dent any future profits.

“We have been heavily hit with the sins of the past, and still have one large litigation and contract issue with the US Department of Justice,” McEwan said.

Shares in the bank fell almost 4% in early trading after failing to meet City expectations, making it the biggest faller on the FTSE 100.

The bank is hoping to rebuild its reputation after a series of scandals, including the revelation that it deliberately mistreated thousands of struggling small business customers that came to it for financial assistance in the wake of the banking crisis.

Earlier this week an influential group of MPs said the bank’s treatment of small firms was “disgraceful”.

The Treasury committee, chaired by Nicky Morgan, published a full unredacted report into the scandal, after the City regulator previously only published a redacted version.

“Our progress over the last few years has given us a stronger platform to compete in a rapidly changing market,” McEwan said.

“And with many of our legacy issues behind us, the investment case for this bank is much clearer and the prospect of returning any excess capital to shareholders is getting closer.”