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NatWest CEO Resigns Amid Coutts "De-Banking" Saga

Tom Burroughes

26 July 2023

(Updates with share price, reaction from Sir Keir Starmer.)

The chief executive of NatWest, Alison Rose, has resigned from her post with immediate effect after she admitted that she erred in discussing former UKIP leader Nigel Farage's account with a BBC journalist. , the private bank that is part of NatWest, "de-banked” the public figure in part, so reports revealed, because the lender disliked his opinions.

In a statement issued today, Howard Davies, NatWest's chairman, said: “The board and Alison Rose have agreed, by mutual consent, that she will step down as CEO of the NatWest Group. It is a sad moment. She has dedicated all her working life so far to NatWest and will leave many colleagues who respect and admire her.”

Rose said: “I remain immensely proud of the progress the bank has made in supporting people, families and business across the UK, and building the foundations for sustainable growth. My NatWest colleagues are central to that success, and so I would like to personally thank them for all that they have done.”

NatWest said that for an initial period of 12 months, and subject to regulatory approval, the board has appointed Paul Thwaite, the current CEO of the commercial and institutional business, to take over the responsibilities of leading NatWest Group. A further process will take place in due course to appoint a permanent successor.

Shares in NatWest were down 3.42 per cent from the open today, at 242.6 pence per share.

Yesterday, NatWest had said it retained “full confidence” in Rose. The saga, which sheds light on whether a form of "cancel culture" has infected banking and finance, has become a political as well as a financial storm, damaging the reputation of NatWest and Coutts, and leading political figures such as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to call for more protection of free speech.

A key development was BBC journalist Simon Jack's report that Coutts had de-banked Farage because his financial condition fell below the minimum sum required. Jack had been sitting next to Rose at a recent event. It turns out that the explanation he gave in a report was incorrect, or at least incomplete. A report by the Daily Telegraph (19 July) referred to a “reputational risk committee” at Coutts, stating that it “exited” Farage after considering a dossier about his comments on Brexit, his friendship with Donald Trump and views on LGBT rights as among reasons why he was not compatible with the bank's values. 

There has been criticism that by talking to Jack about Farage, the NatWest CEO crossed a line of client confidentiality. 

Farage, who is also a presenter for GB News, had called for Rose and Coutts’ CEO, Peter Flavel, to resign. He also said that Howard Davies, NatWest’s chairman, should also stand down. 

Farage was quoted saying that Rose "has now admitted that she is the source. She broke client confidentiality and is unfit to be the CEO of NatWest Group. Meanwhile, Coutts CEO Peter Flavel must take the ultimate responsibility for de-banking me based on my political views. Sir Howard Davies is responsible for overall governance. He has clearly failed in this task, least of all by endorsing their conduct."

NatWest statement
In its statement yesterday, NatWest said: “As she shouldn’t have had his personal details revealed like that. And it doesn’t matter who you are, that’s a general rule. “No one should be refused banking service because of their political views. If indeed they are, I don’t know that we’ve got to the bottom of this.”