A hedge fund manager who was photographed at Downing Street with a document under his arm comparing Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to a Canadian bank has sparked a fresh wave of speculation about the bailed-out bank's future.
Davide Serra, who runs the Algebris hedge fund, attended what was described as "routine meeting" at No 10 on the economy and markets.
His Algebris hedge fund refused to comment after pictures of the documents he was holding were published by ITV. The document appeared to suggest that RBS could be more Canadian and mentioned three banks, Toronto Dominion, Royal Bank of Canada and Bank of Montreal.
Canada has been applauded for the way its banks survived the financial crisis and George Osborne selected the head of the country's central bank, Mark Carney, to replace Sir Mervyn King as governor of the Bank of England. Carney starts next month.
Serra, a former banks analyst who spoke at the government's high-profile global investment conference last month, is reported to have played a key role in calling for a takeover of ABN Amro before the 2008 banking crisis. The Dutch bank was eventually taken over by RBS, which then had to be bailed out with £45bn of taxpayers' money. His fund is reported to have backed the RBS bid for ABN Amro rather than a competing one by Barclays.
Serra is understood to have attended meetings with No 10 officials in the past. The paper he was carrying appeared to describe RBS as "structurally attractive".
Speculation about the future of the 81%-taxpayer owned RBS has been swirling ahead of the chancellor's Mansion House speech next week. Osborne is expected to signal his intention to sell off the 39% stake in Lloyds and examine options for reducing the taxpayer stake in RBS.
The chancellor wants to use the Mansion House speech to respond to recommendations made by the parliamentary commission on banking standards, which is expected to publish its final report on cleaning up the City in the coming days.
It may also address the structure of RBS after hearing King call for the bank to be split into a "good" and "bad" bank to generate more lending to the economy.
But a banks analyst said on Tuesday that a "good" RBS could require additional capital. John-Paul Crutchley at UBS, which acts as RBS's broker, also questioned whether a cleaned-up "good" RBS would result in more lending.
"Lost in the political posturing is the fact that RBS has been one of the strongest contributors to growth in the UK mortgage market over the past four years," Crutchley said.
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