RBS puts squeeze on as it shakes up legal panel

Biggest reshuffle since NatWest link-up sees bank throw open the doors to fifteen City law firms

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has set the wheels in motion for its biggest legal shake-up since its merger with NatWest.
Around 15 firms have been asked to pitch for a place on the bank’s corporate banking and financial markets panel.
Firms that were invited to tender are believed to include Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Linklaters & Alliance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Slaughter and May, Norton Rose, Denton Wilde Sapte, DLA, Eversheds, CMS Cameron McKenna, Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP), Herbert Smith, Ashurst Morris Crisp, Theodore Goddard, Lovells and Macfarlanes.
The panel is not expected to be exclusive, but successful firms will be available as pre-accredited counsel to business groups in the corporate banking and financial markets division. However, each business will still have the power to decide which firm to use.
Specialist areas within the division include corporate and institutional banking, structured and leveraged finance, private equity, asset finance and financial markets. Restr-ucturing and insolvency, however, will be kept separate.
RBS is using the tender process to get to know the firms better, and it is understood that there are no stipulations as to the number of firms on the panel. Since the NatWest merger, the number of firms used by the bank has grown, and RBS feels that it needs to know firms’ strengths and weaknesses better in order to get the best service.
But according to one partner at a top 10 City firm, the tender is not a particularly welcome process. He said: “The aim is to get firms to sharpen up their conditions in terms of fees and rates. The process will allow RBS to see how well the firms are doing and therefore they’ll be able to increase their leverage and get lower quotes.”
The panel, which will cover England and Wales, is expected to be announced in the next couple of months.
NatWest’s main advisers for bank lending are Dentons and Linklaters. However, BLP, Stephenson Harwood and Theodore Goddard are also on a panel for specialist finance work. In the regions it uses Eversheds, Osborne Clarke and DLA. RBS is known to have strong links with A&O, Clifford Chance, Camerons, Freshfields and Norton Rose.