The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and the Bank of China (BOC) have opened their joint venture to provide private banking services to wealthy individuals in China. This is the first such service to be offered by a major Chinese bank, and is aimed at customers with at least $1m (£515k) of investible assets.
The two banks announced a strategic partnership in 2005, with RBS taking a 5% stake in BOC. The new venture reflects RBS’s view of the long-term growth potential in China. Whatever you think about RBS as a company, the Scots don’t make any financial moves without thinking long and hard, and usually get their sums right.
RBS and its high street subsidiary Natwest may do good business, with 2006 end-of-year profits of £9bn, but it is coming in for a growing amount of criticism over its approach to environmental and ethical issues. A student boycott is threatened over its huge investments in global oil and gas projects. A new report accuses the bank of going on a “destructive binge with potentially devastating consequences for the planet”. The response from RBS, which markets itself as the “Oil and Gas Bank”, is to attempt to discredit the report and deny involvement in many of the projects it mentions.
RBS still maintains there is no scientific consensus over the causes of climate change, but there’s no doubt they’re doing their bit. Since 2001, RBS has provided over £5bn in oil and gas loans and participated in over £15bn worth of related projects. Carbon pollution from the projects amounted to almost 37 million tonnes in 2005, the report claims, more than total expected emissions from Scotland. This is more than a hundred times higher than the pollution for which RBS accepts responsibility.