London - Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) launched a campaign to transform itself from pariah to trusted British lender by slashing costs and repositioning itself as a UK-focused retail and commercial bank.

New chief executive Ross McEwan is under pressure to restore RBS’s reputation with the general public and its political masters after a torrid year of fines, customer complaints and technology problems.

“We are the least trusted bank in the least trusted sector in the marketplace,” McEwan said yesterday. “Let’s be quite clear. We are too expensive, we are too bureaucratic and we need to change.”

The bank posted an £8.2 billion (R147.1bn) loss for last year due to restructuring costs and misconduct charges. RBS has lost a total of £46bn since it was bailed out during the financial crisis in 2008, equivalent to the amount of money taxpayers poured into it.

RBS, 81 percent-owned by the government, is years away from moving into private ownership and needs to win over public and political opinion to smooth its path out of state control.

The government pushed out McEwan’s predecessor, Stephen Hester last year, partly because of his continuing commitment to the bank’s large investment banking franchise.

McEwan wants to simplify the bank, cutting its divisions from seven to three, reducing investment banking and shrinking its hundreds of committees.

He said the decision to focus the bank around three core areas – retail, commercial and corporate – and to concentrate 80 percent of its assets in the UK from 60 percent, was not politically motivated. – Reuters