IF Alison Rose, who became RBS’s first female chief executive just over three months ago, was serious about cleaning up the state-rescued bank’s tattered reputation and image, she would recognise that a name change does not go anywhere near far enough.

Unveiling a mixed set of financial results for 2019 yesterday morning, Rose, 50, declared that the group’s name will be changed from the Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC to NatWest Group PLC “later this year”, suggesting the new name signifies the “start of a new era” for the banking group.

An abbreviation of National Westminster Bank, NatWest is an English institution which RBS acquired for £22 billion in March 2000.

NatWest was itself formed from the 1968 merger of the National Provincial and Westminster banks, though its full history can be traced back to the 17th century.

RBS was founded in Edinburgh as a bastion of Hanoverian Unionism and a bulwark against rebellious Jacobites in 1727.

The decision to rename the group NatWest is, to some extent, an admission of defeat. It suggests that the RBS board has accepted that attempts to detoxify the RBS name over the past 12 years have failed.

The directors probably think that adopting NatWest as the group name will permit them to draw a line under the agonies of the past. They wiull hope it will enable the constituent parts of the group – which also include Ulster Bank, Coutts and Co and Adam and Company – to disassociate themselves from a brand which, in the eyes of many outsiders, remains dangerously toxic. If this is the strategy, I am not convinced it will work. For a start, NatWest is not wholly unblemished itself.

The RBS group’s NatWest unit, which currently trades mainly in England and Wales, was no less deeply implicated in UK-wide scandals – such as payment protection insurance mis-selling, the plunder and asset-stripping of up to 16,000 small and medium-sized business customers, and the misselling of toxic swaps to small firms – than was the Royal Bank of Scotland, the trading name the group seems to intend to continue to be used north of the Border.

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These scandals continue to dog the group both reputationally and financially – for example RBS/NatWest took a £900 million charge for mis-sold PPI in the year to December 31, 2019, which was at the top end of expectations – and this is irrespective of the name of the parent group. It’s worth remembering that the division of RBS which targeted innocent small business, covetously eyeing up their cash and assets, especially from 2009 to 2013, was affiliated to both RBS and NatWest, as well as Ulster Bank in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

It is also worth remembering that this was the part of the group that issued training memos to staff, recommending things like “Rope: Sometimes you just have to let customers hang themselves”.

Speaking in a House of Lords debate last June, the Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Bowles of Berkhamsted said that the banks’ global restructuring group had “unfairly destroyed lives, repossessed homes and acted aggressively, without transparency or proper control”.

Secondly, a change of name is essentially a cosmetic manoeuvre, a superficial brush-stroke which does nothing to address the cultural and behavioural malaise that afflicts the RBS as a group – or indeed to erase the memory of the crimes and misdemeanours of the past.

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As Prem Sikka, professor of accounting at the University of Sheffield, says, deeper-seated reforms would be required for Rose’s new dawn to become apparent. Sikka said: “How about curbing speculation, the exploitation of customers, fat-cattery, the exorbitant overdraft charges and other nefarious practices?”

Thirdly, there is a danger that the name change will alienate Scots, many of whom have stuck with RBS through thick and thin. But if it emulates Lloyds Banking Group – which has retained Bank of Scotland as a trading name since acquiring it in 2009 – and retains the Royal Bank of Scotland as a trading name north of the Border, any haemorrhaging of customers can probably be expected to be marginal.

The real challenge for Rose has nothing to do with nomenclature. The banker, who joined NatWest as a graduate trainee in 1992, and is therefore seen as an RBS/NatWest lifer, must demonstrate that she can get the bank into a position where the government can sell its remaining 62.4 per cent stake without incurring too massive a loss for taxpayers.

Ian Fraser is the author of Shredded: Inside RBS The Bank That Broke Britain