Bank scandal

Rose ‘pay-off’ talk as NatWest faces leadership test

RBS and Alison Rose
Alison Rose controversially rebranded RBS

Speculation that the departed chief executive of NatWest may get a multi-million pay-off is likely to spark further criticism of a bank that had only just recovered from the scandal that brought it close to collapse in its previous incarnation as Royal Bank of Scotland.

Dame Alison Rose, 54, left immediately by “mutual consent” yesterday morning after she admitted to being the source of a leak about Nigel Farage’s personal banking details.

The Information Commissioner’s Office is examining whether her actions constitute a serious data breach.

The bank’s board, which initially backed Dame Alison on Tuesday evening, was forced to reverse its decision after pressure from Downing Street, the Chancellor, other and former Cabinet ministers. A board meeting was hastily convened at about 11pm and by 1.29am the directors issued a statement saying the CEO had agreed to leave.

Shares in NatWest fell 9.5p, or 3.7%, to 241.75p after City minister Andrew Griffith read the riot act to other banks about ‘woke’ culture at a virtual summit. They have all signed up to ‘non-discrimination based on lawful freedom of expression’.

Dame Alison received total remuneration of £5.25 million in salary and bonuses and even after offering to retain her services, chairman Sir Howard Davies said her entitlement would be reviewed.

One former RBS insider last night told Daily Business that Dame Alison had broken banking’s “rule number one” by revealing a customer’s details. He also questioned the round of tributes paid to her achievements.

“The heavy-lifting was done by Stephen Hester and Ross McEwan [who respectively succeeded Fred Goodwin],” he said. “Rose was able to enjoy the benefits after the bank had already been rebuilt.”

A NatWest “lifer” she was also described as being too interested in promoting her own position and being seen among other decision makers. Her eagerness to re-brand the bank, which she claimed was a response to its greater customer base south of the border, was seen many observers as an attempt to distance itself from the Goodwin years. Ironically, NatWest now faces the task of rebuilding its reputation.

Goodwin was stripped of his knighthood, but so far there have been no calls for Dame Alison to have her honour removed.

Last night she was asked by Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch to step down as co-chairman of the Rose Review, an initiative aimed at supporting women entrepreneurs in the UK.

The board installed 51-year-old Paul Thwaite into the hot seat “for an initial period of 12 months” while it decides on a permanent successor to Rose. The Liverpool-born veteran, who joined the bank in 1997, is seen as a “credible, safe pair of hands”. He has worked in the retail, corporate, wholesale and international banking businesses and a year ago was promoted to run the commercial and institutional franchise.

During the pandemic he spearheaded efforts to help business customers that had been hit by Covid lockdowns.

Among other potential candidates is former KPMG chartered accountant Katie Murray who has been chief financial officer since January 2019 four years after joining the bank. She enjoys a good relationship with the City and has worked alongside Rose during a period of stability and growth at the bank and in steadily overseeing the reduction of the taxpayers’ stake and its gradual transition back into private ownership.

NatWest tomorrow presents half-year results which are expected to show profits rising as banks benefit from higher interest rates.

Sir Howard is expected to face questions on his and the board’s handling of Dame Alison’s departure. He has already announced he is stepping down next year.

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