Andrew Collier meets the Head of Coutts Scotland, Alisdair Dewar, as the private bank marks a return to its roots in Scotland by embracing the highest industry values and practices.

Coutts has a uniquereputation in the world of private banking. It stands forhistory, discretion, solidity,integrity and tradition. It also values people and individual relationships and caters for their specific needs.

All these attributes are well known, but other facts may surprise. The bank has embraced the digital revolution and is strongly commited to sustainability. And - contrary to popular belief - it was originally founded 330 years ago by three families in Scotland.

Now Coutts is returning to its roots. Later this year, it will be taking over the banking functions of another Scottish private bank, Adam and Company. The soft launch of the new company took place last October and customers should be transitioning to their new bank later this year.

All these attributes are well known, but other facts may surprise. The bank has embraced the digital revolution and is strongly commited to sustainability. And - contrary to popular belief - it was originally founded 330 years ago by three families in Scotland.

“We’ve already started working towards a full service offering for our clients”, says Alisdair Dewar, who is now both Head of Adam and Company and Head of Coutts Scotland. “We began in October and have made a strong start in gathering new business."

Standard legal and regulatory procedures still have to be completed but he hopes to see all Adam clients become Coutts clients by the end of July.

Both banks have actually been working closely together for at least a decade as part of the NatWest Group. This closeness will assure customers of a strong sense of continuity, although they will also benefit from an improved offering.

“A number of things will be exactly the same”, Mr Dewar says. “Current accounts, for instance, will work in the same way. However, Adam clients will now get a wider and more modern proposition and service then they’ve had before.”

One attractive new addition will be a multi-currency debit card. “You will be able to link it to 15 different currency accounts. So if, for instance, you are in France and want to spend in Euros, you will be able to pay just as you would in Edinburgh. 

"The same will apply in US dollars and Australian dollars. There are not many banks offering this and it's something that our clients will be able to benefit from right from day one."

Another new facility on offer to customers for the first time will be a digital concierge service alongside the existing telephone offering. “It’s an incremental improvement that will make it more flexible and accessible.

He sums up the Coutts Scotland service as being “brilliant banking, flexible lending and responsible investing”. The current Adam banking app has been reworked to bring more functionality such
as improved payments and will shortly be relaunched.

“Protecting our clients’ wealth in this day and age is obviously paramount so we will also be ensuring that. And underpinning everything will be service. You would expect a private bank to saythat is a priority, but it really is.

“The relationship with our clients is key and we need to be able to deliver and build long term relationships based on trust.Our lending will be offering things like mortgages and overdrafts, but we will also look to provide our clients with investment bank lending, which we haven’t done in recent times.

“If you have your investments with us, you will be able to leverage against those. We just launched our property-based investment backed lending which means you can use your investments to buy property, and we’ve got further enhancements coming later in the year.”

It is, he says, a matter of flexibility. “It’s about what the clients’ needs are and how we are able to support them on their journey, whether it be growing their wealth or achieving their dream home.”

  One innovative service Coutts Scotland will offer relates to home energy efficiency. If someone is looking to buy a property with a low EPC rating, they will receive a discount on arrangement fees. This will also apply if they can improve the rating of a house to C or above within 12 months of taking the loan.

“It’s about trying to encourage our clients in terms of the climate and sustainability and is definitely one of the things that differentiates us from our competitors.”

Coutts is particularly proud of the fact that it has attained B Corp status. This means that it has satisfied the criteria in meeting the highest standard of verified environmental and social performance, public transparency and legal accountability in order to balance profit and purpose.

Coutts is the first bank and wealth manager in the UK to achieve this status, which is generally seen as an imprimatur as a force for good in the world of business.

“It’s quite a rigorous process, as you would expect”, says Mr Dewar. “There are only 500 companies holding it in the UK. The pass mark was 80 and we scored 83.2, so it gives us a launchpad to see where we are in the future.

“We believe we are doing the right thing. It’s about inclusivity and sustainability from a business perspective. What I found fascinating was that as we went through the process it vindicated what we have been doing for the last few years and showed that where we are today is right – although of course there is always room for improvement.”

Coutts is also committed to responsible investing. It has more than £30 billion under management and follows environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles when it comes to investments.

It is vital to ensure that the Adam and Company client base is comfortable with the change to Coutts, Mr Dewar says. “Communication is key to that. But I’m lucky in that I have been with Adam for a long time – more than 20 years.

“I don’t know every single client, but I do know a lot of them. I’ve done a lot of listening with our customers with face-to- face conversations, hearing any concerns they may have and telling them what to expect.”

The soft launch last year was a great early success, he says “We will now build on that. Service is one thing that differentiates us, but so do our values and what we are doing to benefit Scotland. “We will only be successful here if our clients are successful, so it’s a two-way
street. But it’s an exciting time.”