April 19, 2011 3:15 pm

Coutts increases criteria for new customers

Coutts, the private banking arm of Royal Bank of Scotland, has doubled the minimum amount of investable assets a new client needs to have as part of its ambitious push into investment management services in the UK.

The bank is now asking for new customers to have investable assets of £1m plus, up from its previous guideline of £500,000 upwards, that can be placed with the bank straight away.

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Coutts’ change in criteria comes as the bank looks to grow its investment service. In February, Coutts said it was looking to move away from conventional banking services, with a greater focus on investment opportunities rather than just credit and deposits.

According to Nigel Bedford of Largemortgageloans.com, some of Coutts’ specialist teams, such as the professionals team who look after solicitors, barristers and accountants, are more flexible. This would particularly be the case if the bank can see the potential for advancement and increasing wealth.

A spokesman for the bank confirmed the £1m figure remained a guideline and said it would not turn away every client that did not have the sum to invest.

Last year, the bank was criticised for introducing a £150 quarterly fee for clients who don’t have a combination of investments, borrowing or deposits with a minimum total value of £250,000. Previously, clients did not have to pay this fee if they held £10,000 on deposit.

In a letter published in the Financial Times last November, one Coutts customer of nearly 60 years accused the bank of “callously squeezing out poorer clients as they chased the seductive bling of demanding oligarchs”.

At the time, Coutts said it was not squeezing out poorer clients, but conceded its changes would affect customers who want “to use us purely as a banking service”.

“If people want to bank with us but don’t want to use the wider range of ­services that we offer, including tax and investment opportunities, then we think it is reasonable to levy a fee on these clients,” said a Coutts spokesman.

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