By Scott Wright

THE boss of NatWest Group has insisted that the banking giant has no plans to start charging for current accounts.

Speculation has been growing that major high street banks will move to begin charging for basic banking to offset the pressure on income from ultra-low interest rates.

Alison Rose, chief executive of NatWest, said it was not on the immediate agenda for the owner of Royal Bank of Scotland when quizzed by reporters during the bank’s third-quarter update yesterday.

Ms Rose said: “We have no current plans to charge. There is clearly pressure on the current model in the lower-for-longer interest rate environment, but it is one of the reasons why we have introduced current accounts that offer a level of service and benefits that our customers are willing to pay for, such as our Reward account.”

Ms Rose noted that the bank now has around two million customers who pay for such accounts. And she pointed to “good opportunities” to grow and improve profitability in other parts of the bank’s operations, including its “sizeable franchises in retail, commercial and private banking”.

NatWest underlined the continuing growth of the bank’s digital platforms in the third quarter. It now has 9.3 million active digital users and 7.5 million users of its mobile app, having added a further 250,000 in the third quarter.

Asked if the bank was reviewing its branch footprint, Ms Rose observed that it has around 16,000 physical points of presence and kept 95 per cent of its branches open during the pandemic. But she pointed out that it saw the number of counter transactions fall by 23% in 2019 and 18% the year before.

Noting that the shift to digital has accelerated during the pandemic, Ms Rose said: “We will always follow our customer behaviour, and how they interact with us.”