What do we want from our big banks in times of crises?
Not that much really. Competence. A bit of understanding. A reassurance that money is going to arrive when it should.
Boring banking, in other words.
The trouble with Royal Bank of Scotland, founded in 1727, is that for the later part of its history it was far too interesting.
It had plans for global domination and was once, briefly, comically, the biggest bank in the world by assets. What that meant was that it had lent out more money than any other bank. This became a problem for the rest of us when it couldn’t get that money back.
Before it went bust and had to be bailed out, the hard charging, rather unpleasant Fred Goodwin became a Sir and a respected business titan. He lost both accolades and much else besides after pursuing takeover deals that owed much to male vanity and zero to prudence.
It is hard to imagine Allison Rose, the chief executive of what is now badged NatWest Group in a break from the troubled past, having such vain glorious ideas.
There are signs in today’s results that NatWest is on the way to being properly boring.
It made a profit. Bad debts are down. Businesses were helped. Did Rose do a lap of honour?
No. She warned on margins and was cautious about the near future. She praised her staff and her customers while predicting that both face ongoing tough times.
She was, in other words, the opposite of Fred Goodwin. We should all be thankful for that.