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After the dark days of the financial crisis, RBS wants to regain its customers' trust

Daniel Leal-Olivas | AFP | Getty Images

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has seen its reputation take a battering over the last ten years or so. Bailed out by the U.K. government during the global financial crisis in 2008, nearly 73 percent is still owned by the taxpayer.

Almost ten years on, the bank is focusing on the future. "RBS is probably the poster child of the financial crisis and we're well aware of the mistakes we made in the past," David Wheldon, chief marketing officer of RBS, told CNBC's Marketing Media Money on Thursday evening.

"We're well aware of the legacy issues, but that was the bank that we once were," he added. "We're focussing on the bank we are today and the bank we want to be in the future. And what we want to be is the 'most preferred' bank."

RBS, Wheldon added, was focussed full square on the customer and its customer facing brands.

Wheldon said that RBS wanted to become number one for customer service, trust and advocacy by 2020. Is the ambition of becoming the most trusted bank an achievable one? Wheldon said it was, although challenges clearly remained.

"It's certainly a stretching target because…if you look at RBS, it is still the least trusted brand in the least trusted sector," he explained. Focusing on customer facing brands such as NatWest and Ulster Bank was an important part of the process.

"By doing this… we've really been able to get our staff focussed again on customer facing brands, leaving RBS behind us, because that was the global brand that we were attempting to build before it went wrong."

A recent ad campaign for NatWest, for example, used the slogan "we are what we do." A black and white film showed various types of human behavior, from the caring nature of a parent carrying a sleeping child to hooligans kicking tables and chairs.

The ad was something of a mea culpa for the bank and, according to Wheldon, a way of getting permission to be heard again.

"Inside there as well is the human truth: we're all what we have done, we're all what we will do," he said. "We're no different," he added. "We are what we do, so it was an admission of fault and an invitation to hold us to account, and our customers do exactly that."

Looking to the future, Wheldon said he wanted RBS to be trusted again.

"We've rebuilt pride internally and that's a really important thing for us because at its heart our strategy is... (to) engage our colleagues," he added.

"If we engage our colleagues and motivate them they'll service our customers well. If we do that well enough, our customers will advocate us. And there's a beautiful virtuous circle there that will lead us to number one."

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