Corporate governance and strategic human resources management in the UK financial services sector

The case of the RBS

Graeme Martin*, Paul J. Gollan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper, we outline a new configurational framework linking different models of corporate governance to their associated ethical, strategic management and strategic human resources management (SHRM) policies and practices. We draw on this framework to analyze the role played by HRM and leadership in the rise and spectacular failure of the Royal Bank of Scotland, the Scottish headquartered financial services group, which grew to be one of the largest and most successful banks in the work prior to the global financial services crisis (GFC) but had to be rescued by British taxpayers following a failed acquisition during the GFC. Drawing on published accounts and interviews with senior RBS HR staff, we also analyze how a post-crisis shift in corporate governance, ethics and strategy is shaping organizational climate and HR policies at the bank to provide the HR function with a greater opportunity to exercise an influence on the corporate governance regime. However, the global nature of the financial services industry, the needs to satisfy financial markets and the desire of the UK government to return RBS to private sector ownership has placed strict limits on the potential for the emergence of a stakeholder model of corporate governance and HR, which many critics anticipated would be one of the few positive outcomes of the GFC.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3295-3314
Number of pages20
JournalThe International Journal of Human Resource Management
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2012


  • corporate governance
  • financial services
  • strategic human resource management

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