Documentary lifts lid on day RBS nearly collapsed

Fred Goodwin. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
Fred Goodwin. Picture: Danny Lawson/PA Wire
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Former employees of the Royal Bank of Scotland dish the dirt on notorious leader Fred “The Shred” Goodwin in a new documentary charting the rise and shocking fall of the Edinburgh-based bank.

A decade after the bank’s spectacular success story nosedived overnight, industry experts, journalists, politicians and colleagues explain the culture and terrifying moments under Goodwin’s six-year reign in the hour-long programme.

“Morning meetings, he turned them into morning beatings”, said former RBS Executive Cameron McPhail.

“A lot of people were taken to task in front of their peers, on some occasions they really did get quite personal and quite nasty.

“I may have suffered slight post traumatic stress disorder. I wasn’t in a war, though it felt like a war sometimes.”

The dramatic financial thriller will be shown on BBC Two on Tuesday and is set over 24 hours interwoven with the extraordinary story of how a small Scottish bank grew to become the biggest in the world.

Testimonies also come from Alistair Darling, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had to sign the final bail-out in 2008 deal of £50 billion.

“I had to sign it off, literally sign it off,” he said. “I remember sitting overlooking St James Park in Central London just as it was getting light and thought this is a historic moment here.”

On October 7, the day RBS’ share price plummeted more than 30 per cent, he recalled Sir Tom McKillop, chairman of RBS shouting: “We are haemorrhaging cash. What are you going to do about it?”

Colleagues also give a brutal assessment of what it was like to work for Goodwin in the days of relentless acquisition and multi-billion pound deals.

Iain Harrison, former head of finance and resources in Group Communications said: “He created a fear and blame culture which I don’t think helped RBS in the slightest. I haven’t met anyone in RBS who actually liked him.”

The programme explores Fred Goodwin’s meteoric rise from unknown accountant to running one of Britain’s largest banks in detail including his pivotal role in the hostile take-over of the much larger NatWest bank in 2000 which stunned the City of London.

The acquisition, the largest in British banking history, set out the blueprint for Goodwin and RBS’s ascent to the top of the competitive world of international banking.

The documentary shows how he was encouraged by the press, the British Establishment and leading politicians, including Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Alex Salmond.

The former First Minster commented on the extravagant opening of the bank’s £350 million Gogarbank complex attended by the Queen with an RAF flypass.

He said: “It was a very grand occasion. That was a bigger flypass than the opening of the Scottish Parliament. But there was absolutely nothing wrong with that – to establish a major national headquarters of what was becoming a major international bank, was unmistakably a good thing.”

Goodwin was stripped of his knighthood, awarded in 2004, and still lives in Edinburgh but declined to take part in the documentary.