Royal Bank of Scotland has accelerated its plans to sell its U.S. subsidiary.

The company will conduct a partial initial public offering of its Citizens Financial Group unit in the second half of 2014, and plans to fully divest itself through offerings in 2015 and 2016, it announced Friday. RBS early this year had said that it would sell 20% to 25% of Citizens to the public by 2015.

"We have a clear plan that will facilitate our becoming an independent, standalone bank within three years," Bruce Van Saun, the chief executive of Citizens, said in a news release. "We have benefited from our long association with RBS and will continue to maintain a strong business relationship with RBS throughout this period and beyond."

Van Saun replaced Ellen Alemany, who retired as CEO of Citizens on Oct. 1, with a mandate to position it for a partial IPO in the next two years. Van Saun has been seeking to boost the Providence, R.I., unit's revenue by expanding its mortgage and business-banking operations.

Speculation has swirled for months whether RBS would consider selling the entire Citizens unit to another bank. Before the announcement Friday, Van Saun had insisted that RBS was sticking by its plans for a partial IPO of Citizens and that the time was not yet ripe for an outright sale of the $118 billion-asset unit.

"Even if you wanted to do something, now would not be the time to do anything," he said in September. "[T]he list of potential buyers is quite thin."

Earlier this year, Ed Clark, the CEO of Toronto-Dominion Bank, denied interest in buying Citizens, though rumors of such a deal resurfaced recently. Other potential buyers include PNC Financial Services Group (PNC) and U.S. Bancorp (USB).

Last month Citizens hired Bank of America (BAC) to explore the sale of its 106 Chicago-area branches, which operate as Charter One.

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