In a recent development, the CEO of Coutts, the esteemed private bank catering to the affluent, has stepped down due to the handling of Nigel Farage’s bank account closure. The resignation of Peter Flavel, mutually agreed upon with NatWest, Coutts’ parent company, will take effect immediately.
Mr. Flavel acknowledged that the bank’s handling of Mr. Farage’s account had fallen short of their “high standards of personal service.” On the other hand, Nigel Farage held Mr. Flavel responsible for the decision to “de-bank” him based on his political views.
This development comes shortly after Dame Alison Rose, the head of NatWest Group, resigned earlier in connection with the same controversy. NatWest, partially owned by the taxpayer, faced criticism after Dame Alison admitted her mistake in discussing Mr. Farage’s relationship with Coutts.
Addressing the situation, Mr. Flavel expressed that he believed it was appropriate for him to take ultimate responsibility, hence his decision to step down. Paul Thwaite, Dame Alison’s temporary replacement at the helm of NatWest, deemed Mr. Flavel’s departure as the right move for Coutts and the broader group.
The interim leadership of Coutts will be assumed by Mohammad Kamal Syed.
The account closure controversy began when Nigel Farage, the former leader of the UK Independence Party and a prominent advocate for Brexit, disclosed in early July that his Coutts bank account had been closed without explanation. The BBC reported that the account closure was due to him no longer meeting the wealth threshold for Coutts, but it later emerged that his political views were also taken into consideration.
A 40-page report obtained by Mr. Farage from the bank raised concerns about his perceived “xenophobic and racist” views, raising questions about the termination of accounts based on political beliefs.
Mr. Farage had previously attempted to engage with Mr. Flavel before taking the matter public, expressing his discontent and sending emails, some of which he shared on social media.
Labour’s Ed Miliband commented on the situation, considering it a “bad episode” for NatWest and Coutts but urged to move forward. He agreed with Dame Alison’s resignation but cautioned against exaggerating the issue into a grand conspiracy.
The incident has prompted discussions about whether banks should be allowed to close accounts based on a person’s political views. According to the law, discriminating against consumers for reasons such as political beliefs is prohibited.
As a result of the controversy, the government held meetings with bank executives to discuss reforms regarding customer account closures.
The situation unfolded in several stages, including Mr. Farage’s initial announcement on Twitter, the BBC’s report on the wealth threshold, the discovery of the Coutts report, Dame Alison’s apologies for inappropriate comments, and her subsequent resignation.
With Peter Flavel’s departure as Coutts’ CEO, the situation continues to be a topic of public interest and concern.