There must have been moments of late when RBS's chief executive Stephen Hester felt as if he was in the centre of some surreal Greek tragedy, being handed the hemlock as the mutilated bodies of others lay all around him. First, there was the public cashiering of Fred Goodwin, his knighthood for services to banking taken away. Then the public row over Hester's close-to-£1m bonus - which he was pressured into rejecting - and the small matter of the doubling of the bank's losses to £2bn
There must have been moments of late when RBS's chief executive Stephen Hester felt as if he was in the centre of some surreal Greek tragedy, being handed the hemlock as the mutilated bodies of others lay all around him.
First, there was the public cashiering of Fred Goodwin, his knighthood for services to banking taken away. Then the public row over Hester's close-to-£1m bonus - which he was pressured into rejecting - and the small matter of the doubling of the bank's losses to £2bn.
Few might have blamed Hester had he decided to gulp down the contents of his poisoned chalice. But he endures, and that is something for which the bank's stakeholders - including, because of the government's 70 per cent ownership, you and I - should, according to common industry wisdom, be grateful.
Hester is three years into a five-year restructuring exercise at RBS. By all accounts it is proving to be a success: capitalisation and liquidity have improved, while leveraging is down. Since 2008, the bank's balance sheet has shrunk by £700 billion - half the national debt of Greece.
Rod McLeod of Tods Murray is just one industry player who has sympathy with Hester and worries about criticism of the bonus culture which the RBS chief 's recently declined award encapsulates. "Stephen Hester's remit is to turn the bank round and that is a long-term job - we cannot expect it to be back in profit in two or three years. His job isn't to produce large profits. It is to fix a leaking ship. It would be wrong to say anyone can do his job - it takes a special person to perform that role - and saying he can't have his bonus isn't going to get the bank back on its feet."
If Hester's job is akin to repairing a stately home, then others are building kit homes on his lawn. Edinburgh has been chosen as the home for at least three of the new generation of so-called new challenger banks - Sainsbury's Bank, Virgin Money and Tesco Bank - all of which aim to compete with the major players once they are fully in business.
Their full impact is not yet clear as they are still establishing themselves but, according to Michael Stoneham, banking partner at Brodies, they are likely to focus on retail initially and then develop into other areas.
"I think they will put pressure on levels of customer service and could become an important part of the mix, though they won't be dominant."
Catherine Burnet, head of financial services audit in Scotland for KPMG, sees these new players delivering the kind of products and culture the market is looking for. "There's a lot to be said in terms of delivering what the public wants. They are not going to be seeking to do what RBS, for instance, is doing but it is going to be challenging for them. They need to match the High Street banks, and they are going to be under the same level of scrutiny from the regulator as the larger operations."
Peter Wallace, head of financial services in Scotland for Ernst and Young, is bullish about the prospects of the new entrants. "If they become an important and dynamic force in the market place, they will be offering the right products to the public and that can only be a good thing."
Back in the old world, Glasgow-based Clydesdale Bank is currently the subject of a strategic review by its National Australia Bank parent. Options are thought to include selling the bank or introducing significant cutbacks which could lead to job losses.
Speculation over the future of Clydesdale and its sister Yorkshire Bank has been around for a long time, and divesting its only operation in Europe would allow National Australia Bank to concentrate more on its core home and Asian markets. However, perhaps not too much should be read into the strategic review - given the current global financial climate, many institutions are going through this process. It should also be remembered the Australian parent recently allocated another £400m of capital to its Scottish subsidiary. That hardly suggests a fire sale.