Bank departure

Alison Rose quits NatWest over Farage expulsion

Alison Rose and Nigel Farage
Dame Alison Rose resigned after the leak of information on Nigel Farage (pics: Terry Murden)

Dame Alison Rose resigned as boss of NatWest Group early this morning after she admitted she had been the source of an incorrect story about Nigel Farage’s expulsion from its private bank Coutts.

The board initially gave Dame Alison their full backing but in a statement issued at 1.29am the bank announced that she had agreed by mutual consent to step down as group chief executive with immediate effect.

Chairman Sir Howard Davies stated: “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.”

Dame Alison, who became the first female to lead a UK clearing bank when she was appointed in 2019, 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.”

For an initial 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.

The sensational turn of events came after former Brexit and UKIP party leader Mr Farage said Dame Alison was “unfit” to run the bank which trades north of the border as Royal Bank of Scotland.

In a statement yesterday she admitted she was ‘wrong’ to have discussed Mr Farage’s account with the BBC’s business editor Simon Jack.

Her multi-million pound job appeared to have been saved after she was given a vote of confidence by the bank’s board after offering her ‘sincere apologies’ to Mr Farage.

It emerged that Dame Alison had been sitting at a table with Mr Jack at a charity dinner the night before the BBC wrongly reported Mr Farage was dropped as a Coutts customer due to his assets falling short of Coutts’ requirements.

A document later revealed that Mr Farage’s account was cancelled because of his political views.

In his earlier statement, Sir Howard said the board “retains full confidence” in Dame Alison as chief executive. He also praised her as an “outstanding leader”.

However, the statement said she could suffer a bonus or pay cut as a result of the scandal.

Mr Farage later issued a statement saying: “Dame Alison Rose has now admitted that she is the source. She broke client confidentiality, and is unfit to be CEO of NatWest Group.”

Howard Davies
Sir Howard Davies: serious consequences for the bank (pic: Terry Murden)

On his GB News show, he again called for the resignation of senior figures at NatWest and Coutts.

“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 [the taxpayer] 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.

‘I think they [the board of directors] are doing their best to prop up Alison Rose, her remuneration will be hit. She might not get the £5.2 million she got last year – gosh, my heart bleeds, I’m sure yours does, too.”

Former Tory cabinet minister David Davis also said that Dame Alison was among those who called for her to go, saying she had “little choice but to resign’. Jacob Rees-Mogg, another former cabinet minister who is a Coutts customer, also called for her resignation.

Jacob Rees-Mogg
Jacob Rees-Mogg: Rose should resign

The latest developments come after the BBC and Mr Jack said sorry to Mr Farage.

Mr Jack admitted his report – which suggested Mr Farage had been dropped as a Coutts customer because he was no longer wealthy enough – was based on “incomplete and inaccurate” information.

In her earlier statement, Dame Alison said: “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.

“I was not part of the decision-making process to exit Mr Farage. This decision was made by Coutts, and I was informed in April that this was for commercial reasons.  At the time of my conversations with Mr Jack, I was not in receipt of the contents of the Coutts Wealth Reputational Risk Committee materials subsequently released by Mr Farage.

“I have apologised to Mr Farage for the deeply inappropriate language contained in those papers and the Board has commissioned a full independent review into the decision and process to ensure that this cannot happen again.

“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.”

Dame Alison admitted she was “wrong to respond to any question raised by the BBC about this case”.

She said she had apologised to Mr Farage for the “deeply inappropriate language” contained in the 40-page Coutts file obtained by him.

“I would like to say sorry to the board and my colleagues. I started my career working for National Westminster Bank. It is an institution I care about enormously and have always been proud to be a part of.

Sir Howard said the NatWest Group board would commission an independent review of the closure of Mr Farage’s account with Coutts and would publish its findings.

He admitted the “overall handling of the circumstances surrounding Mr Farage accounts has been unsatisfactory, with serious consequences for the bank”

The scandal comes 15 years after the resignation of Fred Goodwin who was held accountable for the near-collapse of the bank during the 2007-09 financial crisis

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