NatWest has ‘full confidence’ in CEO amid Farage row

Howard Davies

NatWest-RBS chairman Howard Davies announced the banking group “retains full confidence” in Alison Rose as CEO of the company despite her “regrettable error of judgement” in discussing with BBC journalist Simon Jack the relationship of its private bank Coutts with former Brexit party leader Nigel Farage.

“The board has noted Alison Rose’s statement on the circumstances of her conversation with Simon Jack (of the BBC) and her further apology to Mr Farage,” said Davies.

“As she recognises, she should not have spoken in the way she did. This was a regrettable error of judgement on her part. The events will be taken into account in decisions on remuneration at the appropriate time.

“However, after careful reflection the board has concluded that it retains full confidence in Ms Rose as CEO of the bank.

“She has proved, over the last four years to be an outstanding leader of the institution, as demonstrated by our results. The board therefore believes it is clearly in the interest of all the bank’s shareholders and customers that she continues in post.

“The board is clear that the overall handling of the circumstances surrounding Mr Farage accounts has been unsatisfactory, with serious consequences for the bank.

“The board will commission an independent review into the account closure arrangement at Coutts, and the lessons to be learnt from this.

“The findings of that review will be made public on completion. The Terms of Reference and lead firm will be announced shortly.”

Rose 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. Given the consequences of this, I want to address the questions that have been raised and set out the substance of the conversations that took place.

“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.

“I was not part of the decision-making process to exit Mr Farage. This decision was made by Coutts, and I was informed in April that this was for commercial reasons. At the time of my conversations with Mr Jack, I was not in receipt of the contents of the Coutts Wealth Reputational Risk Committee materials subsequently released by Mr Farage. I have apologised to Mr Farage for the deeply inappropriate language contained in those papers and the board has commissioned a full independent review into the decision and process to ensure that this cannot happen again.

“Put simply, I was wrong to respond to any question raised by the BBC about this case. I want to extend my sincere apologies to Mr Farage for the personal hurt this has caused him and I have written to him today.

“I would like to say sorry to the board and my colleagues. I started my career working for National Westminster Bank. It is an institution I care about enormously and have always been proud to be a part of. It has been the privilege of my career to lead the bank and I am grateful to the board for entrusting me with this role. It is therefore all the more regrettable that my actions have compounded an already difficult issue for the group.”