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NatWest chief govt Alison Rose has stepped down after admitting to the incorrect briefing of a BBC journalist in regards to the closure of Nigel Farage’s checking account.
Her departure, after greater than three many years on the taxpayer-backed lender, marks the most recent escalation in a high-profile row between the political pundit and former chief of the UK Independence occasion and certainly one of Britain’s largest banks.
Rose has been below mounting strain since Farage, a divisive determine who presents a present on the GB Information channel, produced proof that NatWest’s personal banking enterprise Coutts had determined to shut his account partly as a result of his political beliefs went in opposition to its values.
She admitted this week that she had given a BBC reporter the impression that Coutts took the choice for solely business causes, and mentioned the dialog was a “critical error of judgment”. The broadcaster apologised to Farage on Tuesday for an inaccurate report about why his account was closed.
Hours earlier than Rose’s departure was introduced, Downing Road and the Treasury had raised considerations in regards to the revelations that she had been the supply of the incorrect BBC report.
The weeks-long row between Farage and the financial institution has raised questions on free speech and lenders’ rights to drop shoppers over their private views. It started when the TV presenter mentioned on Twitter final month that “the institution” was attempting to “pressure” him out of the UK by closing his financial institution accounts.
The UK authorities has already rushed out new necessities that pressure banks to offer prospects an extended discover interval once they shut an account, and to elucidate the explanations for the choice.
Metropolis minister Andrew Griffith mentioned it was “proper” that Rose had resigned. “This might by no means have occurred if NatWest had not taken it upon itself to withdraw a checking account because of somebody’s lawful political beliefs . . . I hope the entire monetary sector learns from this incident.”
Rose will depart the financial institution, whose largest shareholder has been the UK authorities since a taxpayer bailout within the 2008 monetary disaster, with speedy impact, NatWest mentioned. She has labored there for greater than 30 years and have become chief govt in 2019.
The financial institution’s chair Howard Davies mentioned Rose’s departure was a “unhappy second”. Davies had beforehand mentioned that “after cautious reflection” on the fiasco, Rose nonetheless had the board’s “full confidence”.
Paul Thwaite, chief govt of NatWest’s business and institutional enterprise, will take over for 12 months whereas it searches for a everlasting alternative.
Rose mentioned she was “immensely happy with the progress the financial institution has made in supporting folks, households and enterprise throughout the UK, and constructing the foundations for sustainable development”.
Farage obtained proof from an information request to the financial institution, which conflicted with a BBC Information story that the closure was made for business causes after Farage fell beneath a £1mn borrowing requirement.
Rose mentioned this week that she didn’t disclose any private monetary details about Farage. “I need to prolong my honest apologies to Mr Farage for the non-public damage this has brought about him . . . I want to apologize to the board and my colleagues,” she mentioned in an announcement.
Coutts is known for banking the rich, with shoppers together with King Charles, and requires prospects to have no less than £3mn in financial savings or £1mn in borrowings or investments.
NatWest is because of report its earnings for the primary half of the yr on Friday.
Thwaite, her interim alternative, has led the financial institution’s ringfenced business and institutional enterprise for a yr and beforehand ran its business banking division.
Farage mentioned final week that he had requested additional paperwork from NatWest in an try to seek out out whether or not Rose had any involvement within the resolution to shut his accounts.
Rose has mentioned she was not concerned in eradicating Farage as a buyer and was not conscious on the time of a report by the Coutts reputational threat committee that described Farage as “pandering to racists” and a “disingenuous grifter”.
Further reporting by Daniel Thomas in London