NatWest shareholders put pressure on Howard Davies to step down

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NatWest shareholders have ramped up stress on chair Sir Howard Davies to step down for mishandling the fallout from the closure of Nigel Farage’s checking account.

“He’s clearly not in cost,” mentioned a top-20 investor on Wednesday. “Banking is about belief and confidence. That’s sacrosanct and begins with the tone from the highest.”

NatWest chief government Dame Alison Rose stepped down within the early hours of Wednesday morning after admitting to deceptive a BBC journalist concerning the closure of the previous UK Independence social gathering chief’s account at its non-public financial institution, Coutts.

The announcement got here solely seven hours after Davies, who has been chair of NatWest since 2015 and is nearing the top of his tenure, mentioned that Rose retained the “full confidence” of the board regardless of her confession. He praised her as an “excellent chief of the establishment” and mentioned that it was “clearly within the curiosity of all of the financial institution’s shareholders and prospects that she continues in publish”.

“My suspicion is that he’ll find yourself going, however most likely shouldn’t must,” mentioned a second top-20 investor, questioning whether or not he had cleared the assertion of assist with the federal government earlier than its launch.

In response to an individual briefed on the method, Davies did seek the advice of the federal government and regulators on the financial institution’s stance earlier than releasing the assertion on Tuesday.

NatWest shares had been down greater than 3 per cent in early afternoon buying and selling, making them the largest faller on the FTSE 100 and lengthening their decline to nearly 11 per cent this yr.

The drop comes regardless of the increase in earnings the financial institution has obtained from rising rates of interest. NatWest experiences its second-quarter earnings on Friday. The federal government owns 38.69 per cent of the UK lender, down from a peak of 71 per cent in 2016.

On Wednesday, Farage mentioned the financial institution ought to “put in place in a short time a brand new interim board”. He has additionally known as for Coutts chief government Peter Flavel to go.

Craig Mackinlay, a Conservative MP, known as for the resignation of Davies in addition to Flavel. “Each must bear due accountability for this unsavoury mess,” he instructed the Monetary Occasions.

“The Farage saga with the NatWest group is each shameful and sinister,” he mentioned. “Maybe it’s time for a extra substantial clean-up of the board.”

David Davis, a former cupboard minister, mentioned Flavel’s future must be doubtful within the wake of Rose’s resignation. “I don’t like aiming for the juniors, the one that ought to pay is the particular person with the largest pay packet,” he mentioned.

The Conservative MP mentioned the NatWest chair, Davies, had a questionable report, including: “I would definitely not renew his contract subsequent yr, put it that method. I’d take a look at that if I used to be a minister.”

Regardless of the stress from shareholders and a few MPs, senior authorities figures instructed that Davies’s place was safer than Rose’s had been, provided that she stop after admitting she personally leaked buyer data in potential breach of knowledge confidentiality legal guidelines.

“The problem was Alison — she briefed a journalist incorrect data,” mentioned one Treasury determine.

“He all the time desires a revolution,” mentioned one minister of Farage’s calls for, noting that Davies is already approaching the top of his tenure.

Davies, an economist who steered the previous Royal Financial institution of Scotland by way of a restructuring and return to profitability, mentioned in April he would step down by July 2024, and the financial institution has already begun looking for his successor. He’s approaching 9 years as chair, which is the advisable restrict below UK company governance guidelines.

The primary shareholder mentioned the Farage episode “has taken far too lengthy and Nigel Farage needed to marketing campaign for the reality. That’s flawed. What about individuals who don’t have his platform? The board should have identified the explanation for his being excluded from Coutts.”

NatWest declined to remark. Davies didn’t reply to a request for remark.

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