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The Royal Bank of Scotland Group (NYSE:RBS)

2013 Fixed Income Call

February 28, 2014 8:30 am ET

Executives

John Cummins - Group Treasurer

Nathan Bostock - Executive Director

Vandita Pant - Head of Commodity Finance Advisory Unit

Richard O’Connor - Head of Investor Relations

Analysts

Lee Street - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Ron J. Perrotta - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Tom Jenkins - Jefferies LLC

Robert Smalley - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Cynthia Harlow - Imperial Capital, LLC

Operator

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Today's conference call will be hosted by Nathan Bostock, CFO of RBS; and John Cummins, Group Treasurer of RBS. Please go ahead, Nathan.

John Cummins

Hi. Good afternoon, it's John here. Just to say, welcome, everyone. I've also been joined by Vandita Pant, Group Head of Capital Management; Richard O'Connor, Head of Investor Relations, and we are happy to do a short introduction and then take questions. Just to warn people, Nathan will do the first half now and then, we'll cover off the rest. So Nathan, you want...

Nathan Bostock

Sure. Great. Thank you very much, John, and welcome to everyone, whether you're in the U.K. or the U.S. time zone. I think yesterday to me was a really sort of a big day for us in terms of moving from what I would call the sort of financial restructuring period of the bank, and we showed just how dramatically we had brought down the overall balance sheet of the organization. I think I described it yesterday as the size of sort of 1 Swedbank every year for the last 5 years, and the go-forward, which is all about us having a clear strategy, sustainable earnings, sustainable business model and basically focusing in on our cost base and reducing that down to also make us a competitive and effective organization.

And I think at the heart of all of that is our focus around customers and, ultimately, our focus to be a retail and commercial and corporate bank focused on the U.K. and Europe.

So I think building on our November announcement around the bad bank, we announced how we plan to return the sort of 95% of the good bank into a company that's great for our customers and also attractive to investors. I spent some time on the capital plan, particularly the journey, sort of why, are the targets that we've set, credible targets in terms of how we'll deliver them. I focused on the reduction of risk in terms of reducing the NPLs, reducing the stress losses, which was another fundamental part of our November 1 strategy of setting up the bad bank. We announced further deleveraging around our Corporate & Institutional banks, so basically bringing down further our markets and, more marginally, our International Banking balance sheets. Again, all is part of our overall sustainability of returns in the long term. And we focused on the fact that, ultimately, this generates, albeit slightly lower earnings than previously a much lower volatility and high return focused organization.

We also talked about reducing costs and the overall complexity of the organization, very much the case that despite the financial engineering and coming down as much as we had in balance sheet, there is a tremendous job that needs to be done as we take breadth and sort of look at how we become more efficient for customers and, indeed, it's not surprising given the size of the balance sheet change.

We also said that we have come out at 8.6% on our Core Equity Tier 1, so slightly above the sort of pre-trading statement 8.1% to 8.5% guidance, and we came out to the total capital on a Basel 2.5 basis at 16.5%. We focused on how stable the Core franchise had been and how our underlying impairments in those franchises were actually trending down. We talked about how the Non-Core business had continued to deleverage, in fact, had accelerated, had beaten its targets by a pretty decent margin actually in that fourth quarter, and how that was positive to the starting point of RCR, which starts at circa GBP 29 billion versus the GBP 38 billion that we said, less the GBP 4.5 billion of the impairments. So again, significantly better starting position.

Our asset quality overall continues to improve. Positive trend now in Ireland both economically, generally, from an employment point of view, certainly, in house prices more generally. And we are seeing positive news in terms of the sort of the impairments in our retail side. Further reductions in the outstanding wholesale debt. Deposits stable. So again, very strong ratios around loan-to-deposits. Liquidity profile remains at least at the gold standard, still possibly almost touching the sort of platinum standard. CRE is down, so down to about GBP 53 billion gross. And our Markets, RWAs, continue to come down. So again, I think all in all, a general trend towards a lower risk, lower volatility earnings organization, but still a journey to do in terms of building our capital ratios up above the 12% that we targeted at the end of '16, and we've given a sort of a clear plan as to how we intend to achieve that. So John, I don't know if you have...

John Cummins

Sure. Just to say we have got a little asset over the wholesale Markets, which we believe would be positive technical to our spreads. We've reduced our previous issuance guidance, it was about GBP 5 billion of sub to issuance over 2 years in full year 2012 results. I'll now talk to you, GBP 4 billion of sub debt with 1 year left to achieve. We've issued GBP 2 billion year-to-date, so we got GBP 2 billion left to do, and we think that's quite a modest and achievable number. We don't see any funding requirements from our main operating entity. We may have a small requirement holding company, senior unsecured debt for cash flow purposes. We expect further Tier 2 issuance of this GBP 2 billion left to do, but still weighing up additional Tier 1. We're not in any rush to do any so this year. And I'm very happy then to take -- open up the line to questions. We do have 1 pre-submitted question, which we'll do at the end. And I suggest if you got questions on strategy or the overall financials, we'll start with Nathan first and then we can cover more the bond questions in the second half of the call, depending how we get on. Operator, can you open up to questions, please?

Question-and-Answer Session

Operator

[Operator Instructions] We will take our first question from Lee Street from Morgan Stanley.

Lee Street - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

A couple for me -- 2 strategy and 1 some more bondy question. On the strategy, you mentioned the idea of a broad ringfence approach yesterday. I was just wondering what degree of comfort you have at the non-ringfence entity can get a sufficient rating to make it a credible counterparty given, I guess, there'd be a fair amount of derivatives at the end, whether that entity will be basically simply funded from a downstream funding from the holding company, that'd be question #1. Question #2 was just on systems. And I think yesterday, you reiterated the start of the IPO in 4Q. I was just wondering could that actually be brought forward at all or is that just a certain amount of form-filling and administration that has to be gotten through and that's likely the earliest possible date? And the final one, a bit more on the bondy side, you bought your respective policy to meet the PLAC requirements? Do you intend to do all of it with a CET1 and additional Tier 1 and Tier 2? Is that how you think about it, or you've got a different approach? That's my 3.

Nathan Bostock

So yes, sort of good, good questions, Lee. The broad ringfence, in terms of our strategy, we've concluded that that is the right place for us to be heading towards. And there was some explanation I gave yesterday as to why the alternative of having a sort of broad non-ring or a large non-ringfenced bank was not the correct one in our view for us going forward. So I think from that point of view, the decision is a sound one and is one that is also robust in the longer term. So it's not one that we would feel that we need to alter. The precise details of how ratings will work for that non-ringfenced bank, I think, remains open. We still think there are a number of questions, and we said that we think this is sort of future proof to sort of 75%, 80% because we need to get some interpretations from the PRA. We need to see the second relegislation. Generally, I think there is a mix of sort of some people are quite optimistic generally about the ratings that might be achievable. My -- I tend to be a pragmatist in this particular one. It will need to work and it will have to work for a U.K. Inc. to be able to work given that, obviously, the likes of Lloyds and ourselves sit in that space. And I suspect that the constructs, ultimately, that need to be put in place will reflect that. And that, ultimately, it may be that the holding company has to form some form of the key component in all of this. But my belief is it will be solved, I just don't quite know exactly how at this precise moment. And again, we still have a 3, 4 year gap period for that journey and for that resolution. In terms of Citizens, really don't see the date moving forward from the ones that we've talked about. I'll call it end of Q3, into Q4. The reality is there is a lot to do, and there's a lot to do in terms of just general preparation for these types of things. There are certainly forms -- there are certainly things you need to do. But there's also discussions you have to have with regulators, all sorts of preparation that needs to be there. And so, that's what we're working on. It's what Bruce is leading and he is also leading, of course, actually the growth in income that we are expecting to see there as he's making good progress on both the loan side and the mortgage side and we're also expecting to see as well some benefit from on the cost side. John?

John Cummins

Yes. On the PLAC side, obviously, we've given guidance we're going to get to 12% Core Tier 1 ratio and a 5% hybrid, so that's 17%. So we think that's a very strong position for any PLAC. Obviously, the regulators do retain the ability to ask for a further or above the 17%. In terms of our having robust resolution plans, we fully intend to have robust plans as well, so that we do believe that we'll meet the requirements. Obviously, if things change then we will change our plans accordingly, but a 12% Core Tier 1 ratio is very significant. And I think Ross mentioned yesterday or few of some of the other U.K. banks, end up with as well. In the future, we'll see.

Operator

Our next question comes from Ron Perrotta from Goldman Sachs.

Ron J. Perrotta - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

First on there is -- you guys have some Tier 1s that were not called previously, but I think there are step-ups that are callable on March 31. Just wanting to get your thoughts around that. We haven't seen a redemption notice on those yet, but I believe they do not qualify yet at all for capital purposes. And that's my first question. Secondly, if you guys can maybe address a little bit on the recent rules out from the Federal Reserve on the FBO proposals and just in light of the markets restructuring that you guys talked about yesterday? How does that impact -- those rules impact the business and how you think about the restructuring of markets going forward?

John Cummins

Okay. Well, Vandita, do you want to do the first one?

Vandita Pant

Sure. On the first one, in terms of calls, just to be clear, we have said that our call policy is an economic one, which will include some stipulations of which get into the mix, including the capital recognition or not, any funding benefit in the entity that we want to get out of to see whether there's a bit of any consideration on economics of calling certain securities. And given that there are regulations around PLAC, MREL, et cetera, still to land fully, to take those into account as well for any cap call decisions. So I think, of course, we can't give any guidance on call decisions, but fair to say that our policy remains of assessing calls on an economic basis.

Nathan Bostock

So I'll pick up at least some of it and John might sort of add to this. In terms of the broader strategic picture, we were very conscious of -- I see -- in fact, we've looked at a number of different things that we felt could be deterministic in terms of ultimate strategy, but also, if you have a strategy how these things might influence it, so we've looked at it from both directions. I see -- clearly, we have 2 elements to the extent, obviously, we have Citizens. And Citizens, as you know, is going to be effectively moving out of that arena from our perspective. So there is an element of timing in that that one needs to be able to discuss and agree with the regulators. But again, we see that as perfectly reasonable and perfectly acceptable from both parties. And then there is the second part which is, if you look at our overall strategy here, we are bringing down our Markets business over the medium to long term. Our target is for the overall business, on a global basis, to be circa GBP 45 billion of RWAs. So it is our view that we will actually fall under the IHC rules with the footprint that we will ultimately have in the U.S. servicing our clients. And then John, is there anything you...

John Cummins

No, I think that covers it quite well. So I think that's where we'd end up on those places. And obviously, we will then continue to meet all of our regulatory requirements as and when they changed. Anything else that you want to follow up, Ron?

Ron J. Perrotta - Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Research Division

Yes. No, that's helpful. I was just -- so just on the first one -- that's very helpful. On the first one, about the calls, so then should we assume that these securities are not going to be called then on the March 31 date or not?

Vandita Pant

As I mentioned, I will not be able to guide you on that right now. But just to reiterate, all the call decisions will be on an economic basis.

Operator

Our next question comes from Tom Jenkins from Jefferies.

Tom Jenkins - Jefferies LLC

Apologies in advance for the nerdiness of this question, but when thinking of your dollar capital securities, you've got outstanding the old fashioned Tier 1s is under pressed. In terms of -- can you just run through your thinking in terms of whether they need to be single point of entry securities going forward or under EU law? And also, forgive my ignorance, can these be eligible for capital to -- is it worth back the dollar assets when we think of the new Fed rules sort of being -- sort of brought into place?

John Cummins

Well, again, on the Fed rules, we gave you the answer before, it really will be driven by the size of the operations we have left in the states when the Citizens goes. And then you -- coming back to the trust preferreds and the dollars, it is very much on -- it's got to be under English law going forward or really have a clause understanding point of non-viability. And secondly, whatever, since we do have outstanding in different currencies going forward, as and when we look at things maturing and amortizing, we'll have to be very clear on which entities issue. And for capital, it's likely to be single point venture, which is a holding company. And again, we have to look at whichever is most efficient markets for issuing, whether it's dollars, euros or sterling or any other currency for that matter.

Vandita Pant

So the trust preferreds are not -- and just to be clear, the trust preferreds are a group of securities, so they do not interact in any which way with the FBO or IHC requirements as they make a comment. And as Nathan just mentioned, IHC is likely not to be a constraint for us given the size of operations going forward in the U.S. In terms of whether they will or will not fully be eligible for MREL, PLAC or any other version of SP-related requirements, as you know, the details are yet to fully land on that. So we have that as one of the considerations, but not all the answers yet.

John Cummins

I hope that was chirpy enough for you.

Operator

Our next question comes from Robert Smalley from UBS.

Robert Smalley - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

A couple of things. First, just to clarify on the amount of Tier 2 left to do, that's GBP 2 billion for the rest of this year?

Vandita Pant

Yes. Let's say, GBP 2 billion over 12 months period.

Robert Smalley - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

Over 12 months, okay. Secondly, in the strategic presentation that you had yesterday, you laid out a number of goals, particularly on capital, that are going for -- the medium-term goals are for 2016, '17. Could you talk a little bit about how we get there? Is -- are we -- I'm assuming we're not straight lining 8.6% to 12%, that's kind of back loaded. And what kind of discussions with the regulators have you had about this and the trajectory there?

Nathan Bostock

Sure. So we've had incredibly full and comprehensive discussions with our regulator. And I would say joined at the hip is probably a fair description. Vandita will know that from the sort of the ongoing nature of our interaction so -- but also very helpful ones in my opinion. So I think we've both been sort of very transparent about the -- both our aims and the journey. The medium-term quotation of '16 and '17, we generally use for the presentation, but in terms of capital, we're sort of still much crisper in terms of actually the circa 11% by the end of 2015 and greater than 12% by the end of '16. You're right to think that the journey is not a straight line. It's not a y equals mx plus c type approach. And the reality for that is because when I gave the sort of breakdown of the key components that these are the key components that drive the journey, Citizens divestment is the largest. That's worth between 200 and 300 basis points in terms of that journey. The reason it varies is not because of a price sort of variance. It's not sort of one is a low price, one is a heroic price. We have not assumed a heroic price at all in this. It's merely to do with the fact that, as I showed in the presentation yesterday, today, we sit at about GBP 429 billion of RWAs and, by the end of 2016, we expect to be at GBP 300 billion RWAs, with some of them being Citizens themselves, and GBP 1 billion worth of capital set over those 2 different denominators gives you quite a different amount of, ultimately, ratio contribution. The other key components are our -- what we call, our RBS Capital Resolution, which is what we were describing as the bad bank previously, and it's the rundown of those sort of, let's call them, higher risk assets and extinguishing that. And we gave a profile for where we expected those to be over, over the life. So we said it would be GBP 23 billion -- so GBP 29 billion today as opposed to the GBP 38 billion we mentioned at the November 1. The GBP 29 billion today, GBP 23 billion by the end of this year, GBP 11 billion to GBP 15 billion by the end of '15, and circa sort of below GBP 6 billion by the end of 2016. So there is a contribution from that. There is earnings generation, obviously, during the period. We need to balance that off, obviously, with the overall presentation that I gave and the various things that we will be doing in order to reshape the banks. So again, it's a contributing factor. But we need to think of it in that light. There's the Williams & Glyn divestment, which is more towards the far end of this particular period. So don't think of it as being as first or second year of that 3-year picture. And then there is the further derisking of our Markets and IB business, which over that period, is a circa sort of GBP 50 billion of RWAs. So I'm sorry, there is quite a few moving parts. And yes, they don't add up to a straight line. You're quite right. But they're all, shall we say, firmly understood, firmly planned. And I think, again, if people want an element of confidence that we sort of we do what it says on the tin, then I think, again, if you look at DLG, the Direct Line Group, and the approach that we took and the last tranche of that, that we got away on Wednesday night, again, that gives you a sort of a real pro forma for how we do things. And certainly, well, firmly enough for me, I can't think in my history anyway of somebody getting something away with 0 discount, but we did. So there we go.

Robert Smalley - UBS Investment Bank, Research Division

That's very helpful. One more if I would. Yesterday, you were asked on the equity call about paying hybrid coupons by issuing equity. And I guess my question is, have you received more and more inquiry and concern about that from the equity community? And what is the discussion with the regulators about that going forward? Is that something that you have to revisit with them quarterly, annual -- or semiannually and annually or is it something that's taken as a given at this point?

Richard O’Connor

It's Richard O'Connor here, I'll kick off and maybe John will move along. Clearly, we've been speaking to the equity markets yesterday and today, and we'd have an active program over the next few weeks to have conversations with our shareholders. We haven't had any direct concern. It's a continuation of previous trends. It's understandable to investors, given that we are still loss making. As I said on the call yesterday, it's been certainly far from ideal, and you have the weigh the cost of benefits very carefully. The conversation with the regulators so far had been an annual conversation with Nathan and Group Treasury and myself. I would expect that to continue for this year. After that, we'll just have to see, I think is the answer. Obviously, the group pay quarterly dividends, both ordinary dividends and preferred dividends, so maybe we might go to a different time period, but that's too early to tell.

Operator

Our next question comes from Cindy Harlow from Imperial Capital.

Cynthia Harlow - Imperial Capital, LLC

My question is around how you gauge what's economic as a call for RBS now given that Tier 1 securities no longer serve the purpose they were issued for. I'd love a little bit more color as to how you gauge it? Is it based on overall cost of funds for the company, do you look at it as senior perpetual? Can you give a little bit of comment, please?

Vandita Pant

Yes. Again, I will not get drawn into the answer that you may be looking for, unfortunately. However, in terms of considerations, yes, as I've said, capital recognition or not of the security funding profile of that entity from which the securities is issued, the average cost of funding of that security. As you know, some of these securities have -- we have hedges on it and whether we have the P&L position on that or not also means that a crystallization of that can have another economic consideration that we need to take into account. So I would say, in totality, all those issues will get into the mix, along with the regulatory uncertainty that might mean that a particular security may be useless under 1 yardstick, but may still be useful from some other yardstick. And if we don't know, we may not want to take a front row on that process.

John Cummins

You got to look at the interaction with the legal entities, local regulation and other types of regulation, so it's too complex an issue to pin down to 1 or 2 variables. It's a multivariable problem. Sorry, we can't give you any more guidance than that.

Operator

Next question comes from Christy [indiscernible] from Barclays.

Unknown Analyst

I have this question on the dividend access share. Could you just give us an update, and I apologize if this is something that was covered in one of yesterday's presentation. Just an update on your negotiations here with the government on the mailing list? And I guess a follow-up to that, depending on the answer is, given that the company is loss making, would this change the thinking around the access scheme at the moment?

Nathan Bostock

Well, in terms of negotiation, we are in advance negotiation. I think it's fair to say that this is really now with the -- it's not us actually, of course, it's the government that interacts on this, but this is with Europe. And it's our hope that we'll be in a position to actually cover this off by the time of our AGM. And the sort of approach that we've taken to it is that we think that this is a sensible and logical time to actually put all of this type of thing to bed. And clearly, we also though want to, within this, recognize the fact that it would be most sensible for the timing of any sort of payment or anything in relation to it to be much more correlated to its usage. So that's the sort of logic and that's where we are on the situation at the moment. I don't know, Richard, if you want...

Richard O’Connor

Yes. Just I -- clearly, to get an agreement will be good in principle, but very much the policy would be to make the payment as close to our first ordinary dividend as possible.

John Cummins

Okay, that's the last we're going to get from Nathan, so can you please carry on with the question direct to the...

Nathan Bostock

Yes. Can I just say, look, thank you, all, very much. And I apologize for having to leave partway through but, unfortunately, I have a prior commitment that I have to get to. So thank you for your time, it's appreciated.

Operator

Your next question comes from Tom Jenkins from Jefferies.

Tom Jenkins - Jefferies LLC

I don't know, this might have been one for Nathan, so it's a shame he's nipped out, but you might be able to help me anyway. Just thinking in terms of the 200 to 300 basis points of capital uplift you're looking to get from the sale of Citizens, I think it was mentioned yesterday. And you said, obviously, it's -- that's quite a broad range, but it depends on RWAs at the time of whenever the transaction goes through. And we can have a stab of what those RWAs are, but when -- that's sort of denominated the equation. But when looking at the numerator of that equation, what kind of range of multiples to book value are you using and, indeed, what size of sort of quantum of book value are you using? Can you give us any color on that as well?

John Cummins

So Richard will do this.

Richard O’Connor

There is no need to make a stab at RWAs. We can give very clear guidance [indiscernible] as of the end of '16 and actually, medium term, longer-term thereafter. Why are they flat by the way? It's because we expect a bit more deleveraging in the markets, and this [indiscernible] business, 17, 18, and then growth in the Retail & Commercial businesses. In terms of the Citizens has currently has GBP 8 billion on their belt of equity capital. These financial statements are public in the quarter, so you can obviously keep an eye on that number. In terms of how we would look at a multiple now based on current ROE practical equations, it would be around 1.2x sort of look-across. Obviously, the first tranche, we'd expect to pay a discount to that. And then as we continue to get well along in the market and becomes tradable, we would have that discount evaporate over the second and third tranche, or get less over the second and third tranche. You saw with Direct Line Group actually, the last tranche was there are no discounts, so clearly, you wouldn't expect that for Citizens. But certainly, that will be our policy.

Operator

Our next question comes from Lee Street from Morgan Stanley.

Lee Street - Morgan Stanley, Research Division

Just wondering on Moody's, if you got any update there as you've been in discussions with them. And if you were to get a downgrade, if you might, is there anything you could quantify for us as it might pertain to that, and what impact would you expect that to have? That would be my question.

John Cummins

Okay. On Moody's, they have issued a comment yesterday, which is worth a read. The last section, don't know if it’s actually the ultimate section of their ratings considerations, they talked about execution risks. Obviously, we've got a very good record of execution risk. We have got a good plan on capital and they've mentioned already sound liquidity and funding position. So we continue to have dialogue with all 3 rating agencies. Fitch have just come out affirming our rating to A, stable outlook as well, so we will continue to talk and discuss with Moody's and the other rating agencies in terms of impacts and in terms of potential impacts that we'll only get into. What would happen if Moody's were to downgrade us because we're still hopeful that we can continue to give them enough information and comfort that we can meet these risks of execution and do our plan, but that we have a very strong liquidity position and it would not cause us any concern. When we put in our Annual Report in account, as well with S&P, we downgraded, we saw minimal outflows. We still have an excess liquidity position. And as part of the drive towards improving our liquidity coverage ratio, we will continue to focus on financial institution type deposits, Type A deposits. That incurs security buffers, incurs stress in the original liquidity guidance. As well as LCR, we're pushing those types of deposits away from us because we don't need that type and that would reduce any outflow risk there is from Moody's. That's bit of a convoluted answer because I did include the S&P example we had, we should put in our reporting accounts, and also the Fitch, stable outlook affirmed today. Hope that's helpful.

Operator

There are no further questions at this time. I would now like to hand back to John for closing comments.

John Cummins

Okay. Well, on a gray and gloomy afternoon, I hope this cheered everyone up. And thank you, all, for dialing in. And if you have any further questions, please come through your regular contacts in Investor Relations, and thank you for taking the time to dial in and listen to this. Thanks, again. Goodbye.

Vandita Pant

Thank you.

Operator

Ladies and gentlemen, that will conclude today's presentation. Thank you for your participation. You may now disconnect.

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