NatWest chairman says political fallout of Farage storm forced out CEO Rose

British bank NatWest on Friday said it had launched an independent review into its handling of arch-Brexiteer Nigel Farage, whose account it controversially shut, costing the jobs of top executives.

The announcement by chairman Howard Davies came after the lender, 39-percent owned by the UK government, posted a jump in first-half net profits on higher interest rates. The head of NatWest’s private banking arm Coutts resigned Thursday, one day after Alison Rose quit as NatWest CEO.

At the end of a crisis-hit week, NatWest said group profit after tax jumped 22 percent to £2.3 billion ($2.9 billion) in the first six months of the year.

Davies added in a media call that the group had appointed UK law firm Travers Smith to lead the review into the bank’s handling of Farage.

“The last few weeks have been a painful period for the bank, and we apologise for the uncertainty created for customers and shareholders,” Davies told reporters.

Interim chief executive Paul Thwaite added it was “an understatement to say that these are not ideal circumstances for anyone to take over”. It’s 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. I’m determined we learn, and start to move forward quickly,” Thwaite added.

In a report which it has since apologised for, the BBC had suggested Farage’s accounts were closed because he did not have sufficient funds to remain a client of the prestigious establishment.

Farage, a Eurosceptic politician and now a television presenter, campaigned for decades for Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union and was a key figure in the 2016 Brexit referendum.

NatWest’s board initially backed Rose on Tuesday, but by early Wednesday it announced she was stepping down after working at the bank for 30 years.

UK media said pressure for Rose to step down came from within the British government. She had admitted a “serious error of judgment”.

Peter Flavel, chief executive of Coutts since March 2016, quit the upmarket bank Thursday. Farage, former leader of the Brexit Party and the anti-immigration party UKIP, has complained that he was removed as a client of Coutts for his political views.

Source: eNCA

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