Coutts, the private banking arm of Royal Bank of Scotland, has announced it intends to sell its remaining trust business in the Cayman Islands.
Last year, Coutts sold its private banking business in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa with client assets worth more than US$2 billion to RBC Wealth Management. This included the bank’s private banking operations in the Cayman Islands, but the Cayman Islands trust business remained with Coutts.
Martin Hall, head of Coutts’ International Trust Business, said the sale of the trust business is consistent with last year’s sale of private banking assets, in terms of focusing on the bank’s footprint and core growth markets elsewhere.
Mr. Hall said Coutts is negotiating with several parties.
“We are progressing that with the best interest of the clients, the staff and the business in mind,” he said.
For the 30 Coutts employees in Grand Cayman, the sale will mean “business as usual” for the time being.
“I was able to speak to them personally [Thursday, 27 June]. We assured them that we are already seeing very good interest in the business, most certainly because of its high reputation and the quality of the business,” Mr. Hall said. “Naturally, we are talking to firms that we know share our standards in terms of clients and the staff as well.”
Coutts aims to concentrate its trust business in Jersey. This includes a restructuring of trust operations in Geneva. But the bank said it remains committed to Switzerland.
Concentrating its activity in Jersey is a logical step as the British crown dependency island jurisdiction in the English Channel was already home to the largest of Coutts’ three international trust businesses, he said. Coutts has 75 employees in Jersey.
“It is a strong jurisdiction; it is very close to our natural home and headquarters,” Mr. Hall said. “But this is not really about jurisdictions per se. We have very high regard for the Cayman Islands and the quality of the Cayman Islands trust law. We are driven mostly by what the clients and advisers say will fit their needs.
“That is why we invest and focus on that single centre of expertise,” he added.
Asked about the timing of the announcement with no firm buyer yet, Mr. Hall said, “We are some way down in the process already and equally we are committed to being as open with people as early as we can.”
The sale of Coutts’ regional businesses last year followed a strategic review by Rory Tapner, the CEO of the wealth division of Royal Bank of Scotland Group, the parent company of Coutts. The review, announced in March 2012, aimed to focus the business on growth in key markets in the UK, Switzerland, Middle East, Russia/Commonwealth of Independent States and selected countries in Asia.
Coutts reduced the number of countries it serves from 170 to about 70 during the past two years.