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Royal Bank of Scotland gave staff selling fee-based packaged accounts eight times more in bonus points than those providing free current accounts in the run-up to the financial crisis, according to documents seen by the FT.

A copy of RBS’s incentive scheme from 2006 shows that the bank awarded 200 bonus points to staff selling its Advantage Gold packaged account to new customers. These accounts charged a monthly fee and offered perks such as insurance and discounts.

However, the bank only gave 25 bonus points to staff selling a free current account to new customers. The incentive scheme also shows that the bank handed double the number of bonus points for selling a loan with payment protection insurance compared with a loan without PPI.

The revelation comes after the Financial Conduct Authority last week urged UK banks selling packaged accounts to improve their sales standards and complaints handling processes.

A NatWest spokesperson said: “The bank has changed dramatically since 2006 and these are very much historic practices. Putting our customers first is what matters most. That’s why we removed incentives for customer-facing colleagues in our personal and business banking business.”

Paid-for packaged accounts generate higher fees for banks compared with standard current accounts.

But packaged accounts are under scrutiny following customer claims that they have been mis-sold. The FCA, which imposed rules on packaged accounts in 2013, said last week that it would “undertake an additional review of more recent mis-selling complaints” to find out whether banks have raised their standards.

The FCA review is part of a broader effort by the watchdog to overhaul bank culture, after it came under fire this year for ditching an assessment of the issue.

Sales practices in branches came under the spotlight again last month when it emerged that US bank Wells Fargo signed up nearly 2m customers for new accounts and credit cards without their knowledge.

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Sharkey, a non-executive director of think-tank New City Agenda, told the FT that there needed to be more scrutiny of “what is happening at the coal face”.

He said regulators, investors and bank boards should talk to unions and frontline staff “to determine whether they are still under explicit or implicit pressure to meet sales targets”.

Concerns are being raised that banks still foster a culture that puts pressure on frontline staff to sell.

Professor Andre Spicer of Cass Business School said bank employees have in the past couple of years suggested sales pressure is returning “in different guises”.

He said: “We found a number of reports of things like they wouldn’t have formal ranking tables for sales, but would form bar charts on who is the best seller. They were formally not told to do it, but informally, they were encouraged.

“It’s easy to change policies and tone from the top, but much harder to change informal behaviours.”

Experts believe shareholder attitudes could help spur cultural change within banks.

Victoria Raffe, a former regulator who sits on the board of start-up Starling Bank, said: “The tone is set from the top, but the top is not necessarily the board; it’s the shareholders, because they call the shots. Things won’t change until we get an understanding with shareholders.”

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