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RBS to appoint new Western European panel as bank aims to cut costs

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is appointing a new Western European panel with the bank intending to pick a small number of firms to do the bulk of the work in the region.

The window for firm pitches is believed to have closed late last month. The process is being led by head of management services Gillian Collinge and is understood to be a part of an ongoing review of the bank’s structure across Europe.

RBS outlined its focus on large corporate clients operating in the UK and Western Europe in its 2015 annual report, with a goal to reduce operating expenses by £800m.

RBS has worked closely with Magic Circle firms, appointing Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance and Linklaters to the top tier of its legal panel in January. These will have places for another three years. During its review last summer, firms were asked to freeze their rates in exchange for five years on the panel, while those who pitched at higher rates would secure three year places.

Other firms to secure places on the refreshed panel were Norton Rose Fulbright, Macfarlanes, DLA Piper, Pinsent Masons, Simmons & Simmons, King & Wood Mallesons, Herbert Smith Freehills, Dentons, Ashurst, Scottish firm Brodies and Bristol-headquartered TLT. Reed Smith was one of a handful of US firms to secure a panel position.

Collinge said the bank was still in a tender process and would not comment while it was still dealing with individual firms.

The bank appointed former Barclays’ deputy group general counsel (GC) Michael Shaw as its GC earlier this year after John Collins resigned after just 11 months to join Santander UK as director of legal, compliance, regulatory affairs and anti-money laundering.

Meanwhile, RBS has also kicked off a review of its 400-strong legal team, in a move that could lead to staff redundancies. While it is not clear how many roles will be affected by the review, the process will be carried out this summer by new RBS general counsel Michael Shaw.