Most of the 43,000 or so fans who will jam into Citizens Bank Park on April 9 to watch the Philadelphia Phillies take on the Miami Marlins in their home opener will have no idea that the stadium's namesake is part of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group. For Citizens Financial Group, that's not a problem.
Citizens has been an oasis of calm amid the maelstrom that has enveloped its parent in Europe, where RBS continues to be vilified in the British press more than three years after receiving $74 billion in bailout funds. Earlier this year, former CEO Fred Goodwin was stripped of his knighthood because his four-year, $90 billion acquisition spree was seen as such a shameful disaster. Just two days before, his successor, Stephen Hester, declined a bonus worth an estimated 963,000 pounds ($1.51 million based on exchange rates at the time) after the all-stock payout drew heavy political fire.
The negative publicity generated by RBS, though, hasn't seemed to have hurt Citizens. "They are benefiting from having a pretty good corporate reputation in an industry that has had problems," says Charles Taylor, a marketing professor at Villanova University. And thanks to some effective advertising, "people in Philadelphia view it as more of a local bank."
This no doubt is a reflection in part on the bank's ties to the Phillies, which has been one of the best teams in baseball in recent years. Citizens, based in Providence, R.I., bought the stadium naming rights in 2003, and its ads are ubiquitous during the broadcasts of Phillies games.
Citizens entered Philadelphia when it bought Mellon Bank in 2001, three years after Citizens itself was acquired by RBS. Since the crisis, speculation has surfaced on and off that RBS would be forced to sell Citizens to appease U.K. regulators. Just a few months ago, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne told the House of Commons in London that "RBS's future is as a major U.K. bank," with the bulk of its business conducted there.
RBS executives have long argued that there is value to being a global bank. But even if RBS were willing to sell Citizens, finding a buyer for a division with $132 billion in assets and branches in 12 states won't be easy. "That's a big bite for anyone to take now," Morningstar banking analyst Jim Sinegal says.