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NatWest chief executive Alison Rose has stepped down after she admitted to inaccurately briefing a BBC journalist about the closure of Nigel Farage’s bank account.
Rose will leave with immediate effect, the bank said in a statement on Wednesday. Paul Thwaite, chief executive of the bank’s commercial and institutional business, will take over for 12 months while NatWest searches for a permanent replacement.
Her resignation comes after Downing Street and the Treasury raised concerns about revelations that she had been the source of an inaccurate report about the personal finances of the former UK Independence party leader.
The departure of the head of one of the UK’s largest banks follows a high-profile row between Farage and the lender, whose biggest shareholder has been the UK government since a taxpayer bailout at the height of the 2008 financial crisis. Farage, a presenter on GB News, said on Twitter last month that “the establishment” was trying to “force” him out of the UK by closing his bank accounts.
NatWest chair Howard Davies said Rose’s departure was a “sad moment” and that Rose had “dedicated all her working life so far to NatWest”.
Rose said she was “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”.
Rose has been under mounting pressure since Farage produced evidence last week that he had been stripped of his account at NatWest’s private banking brand Coutts in part because his political views went against its values.
The evidence that Farage obtained from the bank through a data request conflicted with a BBC News story that the closure was made for commercial reasons after Farage fell below a £1mn borrowing requirement.
On Tuesday, Rose admitted to speaking to a BBC reporter about Farage’s account and giving the impression that the closure was “solely a commercial” decision. She accepted that the conversation was a “serious error of judgment”.
She said she did not disclose any personal financial information. “I want to extend my sincere apologies to Mr Farage for the personal hurt this has caused him . . . I would like to say sorry to the board and my colleagues,” she said in a statement.
Coutts is famous for banking the wealthy, with clients including King Charles, and requires customers to have at least £3mn in savings or £1mn in borrowings or investments.
Rose has worked at NatWest for more than 30 years and became chief executive in 2019. The bank is due to report its earnings for the first half of the year on Friday.
Thwaite, her interim replacement, has led the bank’s ringfenced commercial and institutional business for a year and previously ran its commercial banking division.
Farage said last week that he had requested further documents from NatWest in an attempt to find out whether Rose had any involvement in the decision to close his accounts.
Rose has said she was not involved in removing Farage as a customer and was not aware at the time of a report by the Coutts reputational risk committee that described Farage as “pandering to racists” and a “disingenuous grifter”.