The CEO of NatWest, on of the UK's largest banks, resigned on Wednesday following an account-closing fiasco involving Nigel Farage, the former leader of the UK's Independence Party.
CEO Alison Rose has exited stage-left after becoming the first woman to lead a major British bank.
The scandal began several weeks ago, when Farage said that his account at Coutts, a private bank owned by NatWest, had been closed due to his political views.
What followed was a pure debacle - with the bank lying to the BBC over what happened, only for internal Coutts documents to reveal that the reason for Farage's cancellation included his retweet of a Ricky Gervais joke and his friendship with Novak Djokovic, which they pointed to as evidence of Farage being 'xenophobic and racist.'
Since then, the bank has issued multiple apologies to Farage, including from the BBC and from Rose, who admitted on Tuesday that she had disclosed information to the BBC about Farage's account. The BBC subsequently reported that Farage 'no longer met the financial requirements for Coutts,' when in fact it was his politics that got him booted.
The apology and a promise to review the bank’s policies was not enough to ease the pressure on Ms. Rose. Reports late Tuesday night that the government, which has a 39 percent stake in the bank, was “significantly concerned” about Ms. Rose’s leadership seemed to seal her fate. Before dawn, the bank announced her immediate departure.
The board and Ms. Rose agreed “by mutual consent” that she would step down, Howard Davies, the bank’s chairman, said in a statement. NatWest shares fell about 4 percent on Wednesday. -NY Times
"It is a sad moment," said Davies, adding "She has dedicated all her working life so far to NatWest and will leave many colleagues who respect and admire her."
The 53-year-old Rose has been with the bank since 1992, when she joined as a trainee. She was appointed CEO in 2019, which was accompanied with a planned overhaul of the bank - previously known as the Royal Bank of Scotland.
Last week, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: "It’s not right for anyone to be denied financial services because they’re exercising their lawful right to free speech."
The next day, the Treasury announced new rules governing the closure of accounts.
On Wednesday, PM Andrew Griffith, met with the heads of Britain's six-largest lenders "to discuss the importance of protecting lawful freedom of expression for customers," according to the Treasury, adding that the attendees acknowledged that recent events had eroded trust in the banks.
"It is right that the NatWest C.E.O. has resigned," said Griffith, adding "This would never have happened if NatWest had not taken it upon itself to withdraw a bank account due to someone’s lawful political views. That was and is always unacceptable."