LONDON, Jul. 26 (Reuters) – Alison Rose, the CEO of NatWest (NWG.L), resigned immediately on Wednesday after admitting she made a “serious error of judgement” when she talked to a BBC reporter about Nigel Farage’s relationship with the bank.
NatWest will be led for the first 12 months by Paul Thwaite, who is in charge of the bank’s commercial and institutional business, the company said in a statement.
The move by NatWest’s private bank Coutts to close Farage’s account has been closely watched by politicians and the media. The politician-turned-TV-host got a copy of an internal review that said Coutts’ wealth reputational risk group said his values did not match those of the bank.
Some big investors in NatWest are also pushing for the bank’s chair, Howard Davies, to step down because of how he handled the fallout. For example, they said Rose had the board’s “full confidence” hours before she resigned, which was reported by the Financial Times.
In a Wednesday post on the social media site X, Farage called for more heads to roll after Rose’s retirement.
“Others have to do the same,” he said. I hope this is a lesson for the banking business,” he said, promising to help other people whose accounts were closed.
At 13:58 GMT, NatWest shares were down 4%, the most of any stock in the FTSE 100.
A government source told Reuters that Rose’s behaviour made ministers unhappy, and that she did “the right thing” by leaving her job. After being bailed out during the financial crisis of 2008–2009, NatWest is still 39% owned by taxpayers.
“I hope that everyone in the banking industry learns something from this. “Its job is to serve customers well and fairly, not to tell them how to think or what to think,” said Andrew Griffith, the minister of financial services, on the X platform.
Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition Labour party, said on a BBC radio call-in show that Rose was right to quit and that no one should be denied banking services because of their political views.
The Information Commissioner’s Office, which is in charge of regulating data, also said on Wednesday that it had written to banks to remind them of their duties to the public.
Information Commissioner John Edwards said that Nigel Farage’s experience shows why data protection rights are still so important. He also said that the watchdog would give NatWest a chance to reply to Farage’s complaint before getting involved.
Rose worked at the state-backed lender for more than 30 years and was made a Dame for her work in the financial industry. After the BBC ran a story about the account, people wondered for days if she had talked about it.
She said in a statement on Tuesday that she and BBC Business Editor Simon Jack had talked about Farage’s “relationship with the bank.”
At the time, NatWest Chairman Davies said that Rose still had “full confidence” from the bank’s board and that the situation would be looked into by an outside group. But the bank said she would step down after an emergency board meeting on Tuesday night.
“This is a very sad time. “She has worked for NatWest her whole life, and she will leave behind a lot of coworkers who respect and admire her,” Davies said in a statement.
On his own TV show on Tuesday, Farage said that Rose was “unfit” to run a bank. He was also very angry with Davies and Peter Flavel, the CEO of Coutts.
On Monday, the BBC apologised to Farage for saying that his accounts were closed because he didn’t have enough money to be a Coutts user.
Farage later got and published the review, which showed that, in addition to business concerns, his political views were also a role in the decision. Later, Jack said that the original story was “incomplete and wrong.”
In her statement on Tuesday, Rose said that she had not told Jack any personal financial information about Farage and had only answered a general question about who can bank with Coutts and NatWest.
Rose said in the statement that she knew her words had given Jack the idea that the decision to close Farage’s accounts was made for business reasons only.
Rose also said that she had nothing to do with the choice to “exit” Farage’s accounts, which was made by Coutts.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in Britain has asked the board of NatWest to look into the situation.
Sheldon Mills, the FCA’s executive head of consumers and competition, said, “It’s important that the review has all the resources it needs and that the people doing it have access to all the information and people they need to do a quick and thorough investigation of what happened.”
Andrew Griffith, Britain’s minister of financial services, will meet with lenders later on Wednesday to talk about worries that banks have closed customer accounts because of their political views. This comes before changes that will make banks explain and delay these kinds of choices.
(1 dollar = 0.7765 pounds)
Iain Withers, Sinead Cruise, Urvi Dugar, and Shivani Tanna reported from Bengaluru. Andrew MacAskill and Juby Babu also reported on the story. Simon Jessop, Mark Potter, Edwina Gibbs, Louise Heavens, and Christina Fincher were in charge of editing.