|This article relies on references to primary sources. (July 2009)|
|Industry||Private banking and wealth management|
|Headquarters||London, England, UK|
|Key people||Global Head of Products, Services & Marketing|
|Products||Wealth management – accounts, investments, lending, deposits|
|Parent||Royal Bank of Scotland Group|
Coutts is a private bank and a wealth manager with three centuries of experience serving the needs of its clients. It is one of the world’s oldest banks and is wholly owned by Royal Bank of Scotland Group (itself 84% owned by UK Financial Investments Limited, an investment arm of the British government). RBS acquired the Coutts business when it bought NatWest in 2000. Coutts then acquired Zurich-based Bank von Ernst & Cie in 2003 and in 2008, Coutts Bank von Ernst and other Coutts International subsidiaries became RBS Coutts Bank. These traded as RBS Coutts International to align them with the parent RBS Group until 2011, when RBS Coutts was renamed Coutts & Co. Limited.
Headquartered in London, Coutts is the Wealth division of Royal Bank of Scotland Group, connecting with clients from over 40 offices in key financial centres in the UK, Switzerland, the Middle East and Asia. For further information please visit coutts.com
The bank which was to become Coutts & Co, was originally known as Campbells Bank. It was formed in 1692 by a young Scots goldsmith-banker, John Campbell of Lundie, Scotland. He set up business in The Strand, London, under a sign of the Three Crowns. Today, the Coutts logo still has the three crowns, and its headquarters is still in The Strand.
Campbell died in 1712, leaving the business to members of his family. The dominant force was Campbell's son in law, George Middleton, who had become Campbell's partner in 1708. During Middleton's stewardship, the bank was buffeted by one crisis after another. The Jacobite revolution of 1715 threatened the stability of the banking system, John Law, the Comptroller of France's finances, owed a great deal of money to the bank when the Mississippi Company bubble burst in 1720 and the English stock market collapsed in the same year. Stability for the bank did not return until 1735. John's son, George Campbell was also a partner, and ultimately became the sole partner after the death of Middleton in 1747, after which the bank was renamed the "Bankers of 59 Strand".
In 1755, John Campbell's granddaughter, Mary (known as "Polly"), married a merchant, James Coutts. Polly was George Campbell's niece and George immediately made James a partner. The bank was renamed Campbell & Coutts. James ran the business. Following Polly's and George's deaths in 1760, James became the sole partner. George bequeathed most of his fortune, and the bank, to James.
Throughout the 20th century, Coutts opened more branches. The first West End branch outside 440 Strand was opened in 1921 in Park Lane. It was not until 1961 that the Bank moved outside the capital, opening its first out-of-town branch at Eton.
Coutts embraced modern technology, becoming one of the first banks to bring in machine-posted ledgers at the end of the 1920s. In 1963 it was the first British bank to have a fully computerised accounting system. In 1987, Coutts gained international representation when Coutts established operations in Geneva. In October 1990, Coutts and NatWest decided to strengthen their representation internationally and the Coutts Group was created when subsidiaries already owned by Coutts and NatWest (including Handelsbank) were merged.
Thomas Coutts 
In 1761 James took his brother Thomas Coutts into the business, which was now named James and Thomas Coutts.
James and Thomas did not always get on and eventually James drifted into politics, leaving the running of the bank to Thomas. James retired from the bank in 1775 due to ill health. The bank in the Strand became known as Thomas Coutts & Co.
Thomas Coutts married twice. His first wife, a servant named Susannah Starkie, was considered to be beneath his station. She gave him three beautiful daughters nicknamed "The Three Graces" who eventually married leading figures in British society: the Earl of Guildford, the Marquess of Bute and Sir Francis Burdett. Thomas also had four sons who died in infancy. When Susannah died, he remarried just four days after the funeral. Thomas Coutts was 80 years old, and his new wife, Harriot Mellon, was 40 years younger and an actress, which stirred considerable comment. On Thomas' death in 1822 the bank was renamed "Coutts & Co."
Thomas' widow, Harriot, inherited £900,000 from Thomas along with the bank. Although she did not get on with her stepdaughters, she wanted to keep the bank in the Coutts family. Harriot died in 1837. In her will, the Coutts fortune was passed on to Thomas's granddaughter, Angela Burdett, the daughter of Sophie Coutts and Sir Francis Burdett. The will contained three conditions: Firstly the bank was to be held in Trust, secondly that the heir should take the name of Coutts, and thirdly that the heir may never marry a foreigner.
Angela Burdett-Coutts 
Upon receipt of her inheritance Angela Burdett-Coutts became the wealthiest woman in Britain. She devoted her life to philanthropy, giving away more than £3 million. Her charity ranged widely: she supported the Anglican Church and the arts, but the main thrust of her charity was directed toward improving the lives of the poor. A sewing school in Spitalfields, cotton gins in Nigeria, boats and nets for the Irish fishing industry and ragged schools in the poorest sections of cities were but a few of her projects. Gladstone the Prime Minister and Queen Victoria resolved to acknowledge her philanthropic spirit formally.
Thus in 1871 she was granted a peerage in her own right: Baroness Burdett-Coutts of Highgate and Brookfield in the County of Middlesex. In 1880 it became known that the Baroness wished to marry her young American secretary William Ashmead-Bartlett, who was her junior by forty years. The partners of the bank were aghast at the prospect of such a marriage, as were many dignitaries. They saw Bartlett as an adventurer, only interested in her money. The Archbishop of Canterbury attempted to dissuade such a marriage from occurring. Even Queen Victoria, with whom the Baroness had often dined, intervened to try to prevent what she called the "mad marriage". In a letter the Queen wrote to Lord Harrowby she stated that it would grieve her much "if Lady Burdett-Coutts were to sacrifice her high reputation and her happiness by such an unsuitable marriage". This letter was passed on to Angela who asked Lord Harrowby to reply that he had no knowledge of the subject alluded to—quite a snub to the Queen. One potential stumbling block to the marriage was her step-grandmother's (Harriot's) will which forbade marriage to an alien, and as Bartlett was an American the marriage would cause her to be disinherited. Clara, her sister would have been next in line and would have succeeded in her place. Clara was persuaded by Angela to waive her right. However, Clara's son Francis (known as Frank), was not so easily persuaded, and consulted his lawyers thinking he might dissuade the marriage by insisting on their rights. Finally Bartlett himself, in the face of immense pressure from society, offered to release the Baroness from his offer of Marriage. However, the Baroness remained determined and refused to release Bartlett from his promise, in spite of various scandalous accusations being made against him involving another woman, and even the fathering of an illegitimate baby.
In February 1881, at the age of 67, the Baroness broke the terms of the will by marrying the foreigner in Christ Church, Down Street, Piccadilly. The partners of the bank rushed to re-assure the press that Angela was neither a partner in the bank, nor could she touch the capital. An argument sprang up over the inheritance and in particular over whether the Baroness should give up the bank in favour of her sister Clara. The Baroness fought back claiming that Bartlett was only half American and therefore not technically an "alien". Angela's sister, Clara, claimed the fortune, and the bitter dispute continued. In anticipation of victory, Clara and her son Frank took the name "Coutts" – as required by the will. Finally a compromise was struck and the majority of the Coutts fortune passed to Clara and her heirs. However Angela kept two fifths of the income until her death in 1906.
Clara Burdett, who had married James Money in 1850 became Clara Burdett Money-Coutts. Her son Francis' full name became Francis Burdett Thomas Nevill Money-Coutts. He was better known as Francis (or Frank) Coutts, a writer and poet. He became 5th Baron Latymer in 1913 and died in 1923.
The following appeared in Punch at the time:-
- Money takes the name of Coutts,
- Superfluous and fimny*,
- For everyone considers Coutts,
- Synonymous with Money.
* "fimny" is assumed to be a mis-type of "funny".
The Panic of 1890 forced the bank to change from a Limited company to a Partnership. At that time, limited liability was seen as risky by depositors. As a partnership, the Coutts family would have been personally liable to any depositor for his bank deposit in a crisis. Fortunately, there was no crisis.
In 1904, the bank moved to its current premises at 440 Strand. In 1914 Coutts took over the bank of Roberts, Lubbock & Co, obtaining a branch office and a clearing house seat in the process.
In 1919, Coutts merged with the National Provincial & Union Bank of England whilst retaining the name "Coutts". In 1961 the first branch outside London was opened in Eton, Berkshire, followed by a branch in Bristol in 1976. In 1969 Coutts became part of the National Westminster Bank.
Further London branches were opened at West End (1921), Cavendish Square (1927), Sloane Street (1929), Mayfair (1932), London Wall (1962), Brompton Road (1975) and Kensington (1978). 
Between 1973 and 1978 Coutts Strand headquarters were redeveloped by Frederick Gibberd and Partners.  Francis Burdett Coutts's great grandson, Sir David Burdett Money-Coutts, became chairman in 1976, retiring in 1993, leaving his cousin Crispin Money-Coutts (heir to the title Baron Latymer), as the last remaining Coutts name until 1999 when Crispin resigned.
In 2000, National Westminster Bank was purchased by the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) in one of the largest corporate transactions in the European banking sector. Today Coutts is the wealth division of RBS and still has its headquarters at 440 Strand, London, with branches throughout the UK and the rest of the world.
The Coutts family descendants fanned out to the British colonies during colonial times. One of them, Herbert William Coutts, migrated to Brazil, South America on business. His descendants live in Brazil, South America (de Salusse Lussac/Lussac Do Coutto/Do Coutto Monni) and in Ontario, Canada. The roots of the Coutts family can be retraced to the Highland Scottish clan Farquharson of Invercauld.
- Breaches of money laundering rules
In March 2012 Coutts received the largest ever fine of £8.75m for breaches of money laundering rules after three years of "serious" and "systemic" problems in handling the affairs of customers vulnerable to corruption because of their political links. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) fined Coutts because of an "unacceptable risk" that the bank could have been handling the proceeds of crime for a three-year period up to November 2010 after failing to properly deal with customers classified as "Politically exposed persons".
Following an industry-wide review in 2010, the FSA found that Coutts was not conducting robust enough checks on such high-risk customers and was not monitoring relationships with them properly. The FSA reviewed a sample of 103 high-risk customer files, and identified deficiencies in 73 of them. The FSA's acting director of enforcement and financial crime, Tracey McDermott, said that "Coutts's failings were significant, widespread and unacceptable. Its conduct fell well below the standards we expect and the size of the financial penalty demonstrates how seriously we view its failures".
Coutts's bonus system rewarded bankers for opening accounts, their anti-money laundering team, intended to act as a check in identifying high-risk customers, failed to identify enough "politically exposed persons". In two cases reviewed by the FSA, bankers did not conduct appropriate checks on the customers, and failed to identify serious criminal allegations against them. There were five cases where sources had provided "adverse intelligence" such as allegations of criminal activity, in each case the accounts were approved by Coutts.
A spokesperson for Coutts, said that there was no evidence that money laundering took place as a result of its deficient controls, and said that "We recognise our systems weren't totally adequate in the past and we've taken steps to improve these". Coutts would have been fined £12.5m if they had not agreed to settle at an early stage in the investigation.
- Mis-selling of AIG savings product
In November 2011 the Financial Services Authority (FSA) fined Coutts £6.3m for mis-selling an AIG savings product between December 2003 and September 2008. The FSA forced Coutts to compensate all customers who suffered a loss as a result of its failings in selling the AIG Life Premier Bonds. A significant proportion of the fund's assets were invested in riskier asset-backed securities. A run was started on the fund following the late-2000s financial crisis.
Coutts customers still had £748m invested in the fund when it was suspended in September 2008, but were only allowed to withdraw half of their investment. In December 2008 customers were given the opportunity to withdraw the remaining 50% but for less than its value. The FSA said Coutts, failed by telling investors the AIG product was a cash fund and advisers were given inadequate training about the risks of the product. Coutts recommended the fund to some customers even though it might have exposed them to more capital risk than they were willing to accept and many customers were advised to invest too large a proportion of their overall assets in the fund. The bank also failed to properly deal with questions about its past sales of the fund and failed to undertake an effective compliance review of its sales of the fund after it was suspended and customers complained.
Coutts agreed to settle at an early stage in exchange for a 30% discount on its fine. Its fine would have been £9m.
Coutts has offices across the UK and world-wide. There are 28 offices in the UK as well as offices in Zurich, Berne and Geneva, Hong Kong, Montevideo, Singapore, Dubai, Jersey, Isle of Man, Monaco and Cayman Islands.
UK Offices - London 
Cadogan Place, Canary Wharf, St. Mary Axe, Cavendish Square, Fleet Street and the head office at 440 The Strand.
UK Offices - outside London 
Birmingham, Bournemouth, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Chelmsford, Cheltenham, Eton, Exeter, Guildford, Hampshire, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Milton Keynes, Newcastle upon Tyne, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Reading, Sheffield, Royal Tunbridge Wells.
- Chairman of Coutts & Co. David Douglas-Home, 15th Earl of Home
- Chief Executive of Coutts & Co. Michael Morley
- Chief Executive of Coutts & Co. Ltd. (Zurich) Alexander Classen
Historically Coutts was a clearing bank to the landed gentry, but today they are seen as wealth managers sometimes willing to accept a wider class of clientele, including entrepreneurs, entertainers, sportsmen, businessmen, chief executives and pop singers. There are however stringent requirements to being accepted as a client, not just based on average and total financial assets. Prospective clients need at least £500,000 in 'disposable funds', not including houses.
Coutts is known as a bank for the rich and famous of British society and is highly secretive about its client list.
They have a regular presence at the annual Cannes Film Festival and have replaced their famous 'World Signia' charge card with a 'Purple' charge card, designed by Savile Row tailor Ozwald Boateng.
Coutts has used the services of fashion designers twice recently to create distinctive credit or debit cards. In 2004, British fashion designer Ozwald Boateng designed the super-premium Coutts World Visa credit card whilst in 2006 Stella McCartney was commissioned to design the Coutts Visa Debit card. The card, still in use today, includes a translucent Coutts logo which can only be seen if the card is held up to the light.
References in culture 
- The Aristocrat who banks with Coutts —
- The Aristocrat who hunts and shoots —
- The Aristocrat who cleans our boots —
- They all shall equal be!
Robert Louis Stevenson mentions Coutts in his 1886 classic novella "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde" as being the bank of choice for Dr Jekyll: "...and presently came back with the matter of ten pounds in gold and a cheque for the balance on Coutts's drawn payable to bearer,..."
In the first episode of Michael Palin's Around The World In 80 Days, Michael visits the bank to inquire about the safeguarding and ease of replacing money whilst on his trip. His bank manager suggests a code-word, which will alert a less knowledgeable member of his staff that Michael is indeed who he says he is. The code-word in question was Jabberwocky.
See also 
- Other private banks owned by The Royal Bank of Scotland Group
- A short history of Coutts & Co. The Royal Bank of Scotland Group, 2005
- Christopher Hibbert Ben Weinreb; John & Julia Keay (9 May 2011). The London Encyclopaedia (3rd Edition). Pan Macmillan. pp. 213–. ISBN 978-0-230-73878-2. Retrieved 28 March 2012.
- "Queen's banker fined for poor money laundering checks". The Guardian. 2011-03-26. Retrieved 2012-03-27.
- "Coutts fined £6m for mis-selling savings product". The Guardian. 2011-08-25. Retrieved 2012-03-27.
- Coutts site — Locations
- Leonard, Tom (2001-09-03). "The bank that likes to say "No" to clients it considers unworthy of its services". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-09-23.
- Kay, Richard (2009-05-18). "One last soiree". London: Daily Mail. Retrieved 2009-09-23.
- "Gold card? Coutts opts for purple". London: The Daily Telegraph. 2004-12-06. Retrieved 2009-09-23.
- Coutts & Co to introduce 'super-premium' credit card designed by Ozwald Boateng Marketing Week
- STELLA BANKS IT Vogue, 10 October 2006]