Royal Bank of Scotland probes ‘jobs for mates’ claim

Royal Bank of Scotland is investigating allegations of cronyism after a whistleblower claimed the lender appointed a man to a top role on the basis that he is the friend of a senior staff member.

A source within the bank told the Press Association that RBS is looking into complaints that a man appointed team leader on the troubled Amethyst project does not have the requisite qualifications or experience for the role, and was given the job solely because he was friends with a head honcho.

The move is said to have sparked fury among colleagues, with one telling PA on condition of anonymity: “You would have at least Level 4 Financial Planning Diploma Certificate to be a team leader, if not level 6.

“The fact is he didn’t even know what an OEIC (open-ended investment company) was when he started the project.

“You could not expect to be a team leader without having this knowledge. There were times when his team wanted to challenge decisions but he had no knowledge and couldn’t.”

It is also alleged that the man was paid nearly double what those with qualifications were earning and, damningly, that more experienced and qualified staff were kicked off the project while he maintained his position.

RBS chief executive Ross McEwan was made aware of the situation in July, but the whistleblower is understood to have raised concerns that the investigation is not being taken seriously and has been delayed.

The bank said in a statement: “RBS takes whistleblowing very seriously. The bank was made aware of a series of allegations in July and is investigating them thoroughly.

“No conclusions have been reached at this stage but the appropriate action will be taken in the event that any of the allegations are substantiated.”

The Amethyst project was set up to carry out complex investment reviews of ISAs, funds, bonds, pensions and tax planning products.

The Financial Conduct Authority has rules in place that aim to stamp out nepotism and cronyism in the Square Mile, but it is unclear whether the City watchdog has been made aware of the situation.

The RBS source added: “It was another yes man put in place for the project overall. With no experience of investments, he wouldn’t even be offered one of the admin roles for the project in normal course of events.”

The damning revelations come just weeks after PA revealed that RBS was paying contractors £400 a day to stuff envelopes, typically a minimum wage role.

Royal Bank of Scotland AGM
RBS chief executive Ross McEwan (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Under Mr McEwan, the lender, still 62% owned by the Government, has pledged to cut costs and stamp out scandals.

Since the financial crisis, RBS has been dogged by furore surrounding the mis-selling of payment protection insurance (PPI), mortgage-backed securities and the mistreatment of small businesses.

In addition, Mr McEwan has taken an axe to the RBS branch network as part of cost-cutting measures, resulting in hundreds of job losses.