17/01/2018 18:50 GMT | Updated 18/01/2018 09:47 GMT

'Let Customers Hang Themselves': Secret RBS Memo Sent In The Wake Of The Financial Crash Made Public

"It was a step by step guide to fleece RBS customers."

PA Wire/PA Images

An internal RBS memo urging managers to let struggling customers “hang themselves” in the wake of the financial crisis has been published.

The 2009 document, which the bank claims did not reflect official policy, was sent around the organisation’s Global Restructuring Group under the heading “Just Hit Budget!”

Recommendations in the memo included going after “basket cases” for work, remembering that if customers “sign they can’t complain” and “missed opportunities will mean missed bonuses.”

The document, which has been reported on but never before published, came into the public domain after Parliament’s Treasury Committee asked for it to be sent over ahead of an appearance in front of MPs by RBS’s Chief Executive on January 30.

The SNP’s Stewart Hosie, a member of the Committee, said: “The RBS memo makes shocking reading. It was a step by step guide to fleece RBS customers.

“I recognise that the memo dates from 2008 and the JHB document from 2009 – at the height of the banking crisis. I also recognise that RBS say it was not bank policy or circulated widely.

“It actually includes the following instruction ‘Rope: Sometimes you need to let customers hang themselves.’

“It’s unbelievable. 

“I am pleased that RBS have distanced themselves from this outrageous document.”


The Global Restructuring Group was set up in 2008 with the aim of turning around small businesses who were under financial pressure.

Yet the unit, which ran until 2013, faced accusations it had mistreated 12,000 customers.

The Financial Conduct Authority is carrying out an investigation into the GRG, and an outline report published by the watchdog last year found the unit was responsible for “widespread inappropriate treatment” of smaller companies.

It also reported that 92 per cent of potentially viable businesses transferred there were mistreated in some way.

But the FCA did not support the claim that the GRG was deliberately making firms go bust in order to profit from their failures. 

PA Wire/PA Images
RBS Chief Executive Ross McEwan

In a letter accompanying the documents, RBS Chief Executive Ross McEwen, who was appointed to the role in 2013 after joining the bank a year before, distanced his organisation from the papers.

He said the Just Hit Budget document was “written in 2009 by a junior manager who is no longer employed by the bank.

“At no time did it form part of GRG or RBS policy.

“In addition, the document was not widely distributed. It was circulated within one regional office and had limited distribution with two other GRG offices (one in the UK, one overseas).

 He added: “For the avoidance of doubt, the language used in the document was completely unacceptable and the bank does not condone it. It does not reflect bank policy or guidance, either at the time it was written or today.”