NatWest chair vows not to quit after Farage Coutts row despite intense pressure

NatWest chair vows not to quit after Farage Coutts row despite intense pressure

Nigel Farage and Sir Howard Davies (inset)

Sam Montgomery

By Sam Montgomery

Published: 28/07/2023

- 14:13

Updated: 28/07/2023

- 15:59

Sir Howard Davies has dug his heels in after initially backing Dame Alison Rose

The NatWest chair, Sir Howard Davies, has declared that he is not leaving his post in the wake of the row over Coutts’ closure of Nigel Farage’s account.

As heads continue to roll at NatWest, Davies has vowed to carry on as an emblem of “stability” at the bank.

With NatWest being 39 per cent owned by the taxpayer, Davies has found solace in his belief that the bank has the “support” of its “main shareholder."

NatWest has already offered up a couple pounds of flesh to the public, with the NatWest chief executive Dame Alison Rose and Coutts chief executive Peter Flavel both stepping down.

Dame Alison Rose (centre)Dame Alison Rose (centre)PA

While Davies appears outwardly assured, the Prime Minister refused to back him on Thursday.

Asked whether he would endorse the NatWest chair staying in his seat until next year, when Davies moves on, Rishi Sunak deflected: "This isn't about any one individual, it's about values - do you believe in free speech and not to be discriminated against because of your legally held views?"

The chairman's pledge to stay on came as the bank announced a surge in pre-tax profits to £3.6billion in the six months to 30 June, up from £2.6billion a year earlier.

At an emergency NatWest board meeting in the early hours of Wednesday morning, the board agreed that Rose should leave on “mutual consent”.

Sir Howard Davies


On Friday, Davies said: "The reaction, the political reaction... was such that Alison and I then concluded, and the board supported the view, that her position was then untenable."

He added: "She would be running the bank in the face of very difficult headwinds and therefore we made a different decision."

Hours before Rose resigned, Davies said the board retained “full confidence” in her.

Earlier this month, GB News presenter and former Ukip leader Nigel Farage revealed that his Coutts account had been closed down.

Later, the BBC reported that the account had been closed on grounds that it no longer met the private bank’s wealth threshold, citing a source familiar with the matter.

Dame Alison Rose resigned as chief executive of NatWestDame Alison Rose resigned as chief executive of NatWestPA

Sticking to his guns, Farage obtained a report from the bank that noted political views as considerations for closing his account.

The BBC and its business editor Simon Jack subsequently apologised, adding the reporting had been based on information from a “trusted and senior source”, but it turned out to be “incomplete and inaccurate”.

Rose then admitted to a “serious error of judgement” when she discussed Farage’s relationship with private bank Coutts with the BBC journalist.

A day after Rose's resignation, Peter Flavel, the chief executive of Coutts, which is a subsidiary of NatWest, also resigned.


Coutts CEO Peter Flavel quits after row over Nigel Farage's bank accounts

Coutts CEO Peter Flavel quit after row over Nigel Farage's bank accounts


Last year, Rose, was paid £5.25million for her work at NatWest.

In a statement of her own, Rose said: “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.

“My NatWest colleagues are central to that success, and so I would like to personally thank them for all that they have done.”

Rose's interim replacement, NatWest chief executive Paul Thwaite, said: "It is an understatement to say that these are not ideal circumstances for anyone to take over.

"It is clear to me that we got some things wrong. It will take time to address some of those challenges. But I've already taken action and I'm determined we learn and start to move forward quickly."

As part of its half-year results announcement, NatWest revealed that the bank had appointed the law firm Travers Smith to conduct an independent investigation into Farage’s account closure and the handling of the complaint.

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