RBS to rebrand as NatWest Group as CMO David Wheldon retires

NatWest Group aims to be a purpose-led bank focused on enterprise, learning and climate as it looks to put the past behind it and focus on the future.

NatWest GroupThe RBS brand is to disappear as the bank looks to draw a line under its past with a rebrand to NatWest Group and launch of a new strategy focused on being a purposeful business focused on its shareholders, colleagues and society.

The change, which will take place later this year, will see the end of the RBS brand that was founded in 2004 as part of the bank’s ambitions to become a global business (although a small business in the Channel Islands called RBS International will remain). Instead, the company will take on the name of its biggest consumer-facing brand – NatWest – which accounts for around 80% of its revenue.

The other brands in its portfolio will remain, including the Royal Bank of Scotland, Ulster Bank and Coutt’s, which offers private banking services.

There will also be changes in its executive team. RBS’s Group CMO David Wheldon is retiring after almost five years in the role and a 35-year career in marketing.

The rebrand is the result of years of work by the bank and its exec team, including Wheldon, to turn around business performance and brand perceptions following its near-collapse in 2008 and subsequent bailout by the UK government. For a number of years it was loss-making and did not pay out any dividends, while remaining majority-owned by the government.

The bank’s results, which it also released today, show it generated operating profit before tax of £4.2bn in 2019, while it plans to pay a dividend to shareholders of 3 pence.

With that recovery work completed and the bank back to profitability, it is now looking forward with a new strategy, purpose and corporate vision under CEO Alison Rose, who joined last November. That purpose is focused on championing the potential of people, families and businesses with the aim of becoming a more sustainable business.

To do that, it plans to tackle the issues that hold people, families and businesses back. Working with not-for-profit A Blueprint for Better Business it has created a framework that says NatWest Group must be: honest and fair with customers and suppliers; a good citizen; a guardian for future generations; and a responsible and responsive employer.

It has identified three areas where it believes it should focus. These are tackling the barriers to starting a business, improving financial capability and confidence for consumers, and accelerating the transition to a low carbon economy.

Rose says: “I know from experience, that we only succeed when our customers and wider communities succeed. I am confident that the strategy I have outlined will deliver sustainable long-term shareholder returns and will also build a bank that the UK and Republic of Ireland can be proud of.

“We will create lasting value when we champion the potential of those we serve. That is our purpose and our strategy.”

David Wheldon retires

Wheldon will be staying in his role until the end of March to do a full handover with a successor. While NatWest Group has not announced who that might be, Marketing Week understands the CMO role and its responsibilities are likely to be split, with someone appointed on an interim basis once Wheldon departs.

Wheldon has spent more than 35 years in the marketing industry. He began his career agency-side at Saatchi & Saatchi in the 1980s before moving to WCRS and Lowe Howard Spink, where he was managing director at the age of just 32.

It was after this that he made the move client-side with Coca-Cola although he was tempted back to agency life to work for BBDO and then set up Tempus, which was bought by WPP. Having set up Team Vodafone at WPP he moved to the telecoms business as global director of brand in 2004, staying for nearly six years.

He then set up his own consultancy before moving back in-house with a role as head of brand, reputation and citizenship at Barclays. RBS Group came calling in 2015.

Wheldon has also held industry roles including president of the World Federation of Advertisers and is a mentor for The Marketing Academy and the School of Marketing.

During his time in the industry, Wheldon has been outspoken about the importance of marketing in business and the role it should play in companies. In a notable speech at the ISBA conference in 2016, he cautioned marketers against being “the dog that barks at every passing car” and to instead focus on long-term strategy and understanding customers.

Marketing Week understands that he plans to remain active in the industry, using his experience to work with the next generation of marketing leaders.