April 18, 2024

Dame Alison Rose: NatWest boss quits after admitting Farage leak to BBC

NatWest boss Dame Alison Rose has resigned from her position after admitting to being the source of an inaccurate story about Nigel Farage’s finances.

Dame Alison said earlier that she made a “serious error of judgment” when she discussed Mr Farage’s relationship with private bank Coutts, owned by the NatWest Group, with a BBC journalist.

Mr Farage said the NatWest chief’s resignation was “a start” but called on the entire of the group’s board to follow. “Anybody on that Board that backed that statement that was put out at 5.42pm yesterday, a totally unsustainable and untrue statement, anybody that backed that behaviour, should be gone,” he told the PA news agency.

He separately told GB News that “the first rule of banking is you have to respect the privacy of the customer. You also have to respect the GDPR regulations. They were both broken, very clearly, by the boss of NatWest.”

In a statement released early on Wednesday morning, NatWest Group chairman Sir Howard Davies 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.”

In a statement of her own, Dame Alison thanked her colleagues “for all that they have done”, adding: “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.

Sir Howard initially said the board members had decided the chief executive retained their “full confidence” but her position became ever more uncertain after the Chancellor and Downing Street were said to have “serious concerns” over her conduct.

An emergency board meeting was called late on Tuesday night to determine her future, with the announcement of her resignation coming a few hours later.

Last week, Mr Farage presented evidence, in the form of a 40-page dossier, that his account at Coutts had been closed partly due to his political views conflicting with the bank’s values.

The evidence obtained from the bank through a data request contradicted a BBC News story, which initially claimed that the account closure was motivated by commercial reasons only, citing Mr Farage’s failure to meet a £1m borrowing requirement.

The BBC and its business editor Simon Jack apologised, saying the reporting had been based on information from a “trusted and senior source” but “turned out to be incomplete and inaccurate”.

Banking expert Philip Augar says NatWest bosses apology to Nigel Farage may not be enough

Mr Farage said the episode showed NatWest needs a “cultural change” and that they “ought to go back to being a bank, rather than being a moral arbiter for political positions”.

He added: “But I think this culture runs deep through the entire banking industry. I think there is a massive anti-Brexit prejudice and I think the whole thing needs to change.

“I think the politically exposed person rules need to be completely re-interpreted and I think we have to look at all the anti-money laundering laws and recognise what is actually happening is we are using a sledgehammer to miss the nut.

“I now want to be a voice for those people and I want a fundamental change of the banking laws.”

In a statement released alongside Sir Howard’s on Tuesday evening, Dame Alison said: “I recognise that in my conversations with Simon Jack of the BBC, I made a serious error of judgment in discussing Mr Farage’s relationship with the bank.

“Believing it was public knowledge, I confirmed that Mr Farage was a Coutts customer and that he had been offered a NatWest bank account.

“Alongside this, I repeated what Mr Farage had already stated, that the bank saw this as a commercial decision. I would like to emphasise that in responding to Mr Jack’s questions I did not reveal any personal financial information about Mr Farage.

“In response to a general question about eligibility criteria required to bank with Coutts and NatWest I said that guidance on both was publicly available on their websites. In doing so, I recognise that I left Mr Jack with the impression that the decision to close Mr Farage’s accounts was solely a commercial one.”

Sir Howard said the “overall handling of the circumstances surrounding Mr Farage’s accounts has been unsatisfactory, with serious consequences for the bank”, before promising an independent review, which will be made public.

Sheldon Mills, Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) executive director for consumers and competition, said it had raised concerns about breaches of confidentiality by Coutts and its parent company NatWest.

He also emphasised the importance of a “well-resourced” independent review to investigate the matter “swiftly” and “fully”, adding: “On the basis of the review and any steps taken by other authorities, such as the Financial Ombudsman Service or Information Commissioner, on relevant complaints, we will decide if any further action is necessary.”

Speaking on his GB News show, Mr Farage accused Dame Alison of breaching the FCA’s conduct rules, adding: “I think there has been complete failure in this regard.”



On the basis of the review and any steps taken by other authorities, such as the Financial Ombudsman Service or Information Commissioner, on relevant complaints, we will decide if any further action is necessary.

Sheldon Mills

The ex-MEP turned broadcaster went on: “It is perfectly clear to me that Peter Flavel, the CEO of Coutts, has not done his job at all.

“It is perfectly clear to me that Alison Rose is unfit to be the CEO of a big group and that Howard Davies, who is supposed to be in charge of governance, has failed as well.

“Given that we have a 39% stake in this – we, the great British public – I think at that investor statement on Friday morning, the Government ought to say we have no confidence in this management. Frankly, I think they should all go and that is my conclusion from what we’ve learned this afternoon.”

The taxpayer’s stake in the company has gradually reduced over time due to several share sales by the Government, with the latest bringing its ownership down to 38.6%.

A string of Tory MPs, including former cabinet minister David Davis and Saqib Bhatti, the Conservative Party’s vice-chairman for business, had also called for Dame Alison’s resignation.

NatWest’s board of directors announced that Paul Thwaite, the current chief executive of the company’s Commercial and Institutional business, will take over Dame Alison’s responsibilities for an initial period of 12 months, pending regulatory approval.

The board said in a statement that a further process to appoint a permanent successor will take place “in due course”.

City minister Andrew Griffith will meet Britain’s largest banks on Wednesday morning to address concerns related to customers’ “lawful freedom of expression”.

Additional reporting by PA

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