RBS boss takes £1m payout despite bank being in red for nine years in a row

Inside every bad bank there's a good bank trying. RBS is very trying.

On Thursday morning it reported a loss of £7 billion - the ninth consecutive loss since the taxpayer rescued it in 2008.

Ross McEwan, the CEO, declared himself "pleased". So much so he's decided to take the role-based allowance of £1m - a bonus he's given-up in previously - for a job well done.

"This bank is really working again" he told me."I know it's really hard to take a £7 billion loss but £10 billion of that is one-off charges"

  • Full interview with RBS Chief Executive Ross McEwan

Be sceptical, by all means, but there are reasons to keep the faith.

What McEwan calls the "core bank" - the part of RBS that is UK focused on lending to households and businesses - has been profitable for the last two years. This year to the tune of £4.2 billion.

It was the fastest growing bank last year and we're told customer satisfaction scores are at their highest level ever.

Unfortunately, that "simpler, safer" bank lies buried in the rubble of fines and costs of past abuses.

In 2016 RBS was forced to set aside money for conduct charges, paid PPI compensation, made repayments to HMT and sold assets to hit capital targets.

RBS is planning to cut costs by £2bn over the next four years. Credit: ITV News

Ross McEwan says the bank's troubles will soon be behind it.

By 2018 the "sins of the past", as he puts it, will have been forgiven and RBS will be profitable.

When McEwan became CEO three and a half years ago he inherited a legion of problems that were not of his making, however he's been in charge long enough that's its fair to ask questions about his leadership.

When I interviewed him a year ago he set out his priorities for 2016. They were: settle the outstanding conduct charges; pass the Bank of England's stress-tests and sell Williams and Glynn branches.

None of these things came to pass.

RBS has been posting annual losses for the past nine years. Credit: Philip Toscano / PA

I asked McEwan if he accepted any responsibility for what look like failures.

He preferred to point to what has been achieved.

Eighty-seven people at RBS have earned more than 1 million Euros. The bank's bonus pool for 2016 stands at £343 million, a large sum but down 75% on 2010.

RBS plans to cut costs by £2bn over the next four years.

Jobs will be lost, branches will close. McEwan won't say how many. The Unite union is expecting 10,000 redundancies.

The priorities for the year ahead? Settle conduct charges, negotiate an alternative to the Williams and Glyn sales with the European Union, pass the stress tests and starting making money again.

The taxpayer invested £45 billion saving RBS in 2008. Today the 72% stake we own is worth half of what we paid for it.

We can't yet be confident we'll get all of it back.