NatWest boss Dame Alison Rose quits after Nigel Farage bank account leak

NatWest boss Dame Alison Rose has quit the banking giant after admitting being the source of an inaccurate BBC story about Nigel Farage’s finances.

Dame Alison had earlier admitted she made a “serious error of judgement” when discussing Farage’s relationship with private bank Coutts, which is owned by NatWest Group, with a BBC journalist. However, NatWest chairman Sir Howard Davies had said she had the “full confidence” of the board.

But that apperars to have changed after Chancellor Jeremy Hunt expressed “serious concerns” over Dame Alison’s conduct. It came after she met Hunt as well as Downing Street officials.

Now, in the early hours of Wednesday, Sir Howard issued a statement saying the chief executive had left her position. He said: “The Board and Alison Rose have agreed, by mutual consent, that she will step down as CEO of the NatWest Group.

READ MORE: Natwest boss on the brink over Farage leak as Sunak and Hunt pile on pressure

“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.”

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, 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.

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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 £1 million 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”.

In a statement, released alongside Sir Howard 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.”

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”.

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