NatWest Group PLC (LON:NWG) said today that the bank would shift its HQ to London in the event Scotland votes for independence from the UK.
Speaking to reporters after first-quarter results chief executive Alison Rose said that if Scotland did split away “Our balance sheet would be too big for an independent Scottish economy. And so we would move our registered headquarters, in the event of independence, to London”
NatWest was formerly known as Royal Bank of Scotland until a change of name in early 2020.
Rose insisted that the bank was agnostic on the issue of independence and said it was an issue for Scotland’s people to decide.
NatWest was acquired by Royal Bank of Scotland in 2000, which has had its headquarters in Edinburgh for almost 300 years.
The enlarged bank was rescued by the UK government in 2008 when the financial crash had led it to the brink of bankruptcy and the UK taxpayer still owns 54%.
Rose also warned it was facing a potentially big bill from criminal charges relating to a breach of money laundering regulations between 2011 and 2019.
UK financial regulator the FCA alleges that NatWest failed to monitor deposits of GBP365mln paid into one customer’s accounts, of which around GBP264mln was in cash.
If convicted, NatWest faces an unlimited fine and further substantial costs.
“We’re very disappointed with the situation. We take AML (anti-money-laundering) very seriously and we invest very significantly in our services,” Rose said.
NatWest shares fell after the first quarter results today even though profits almost doubled to GBP946mln.
Analysts blamed the lack of comment about dividends going forward was to blame especially as the bank revealed a very strong capital position.
Shares eased 3.7% to 196.2p.