NatWest chair Sir Howard Davies has said he will not quit his role despite calls to resign after it emerged that the bank had briefed the BBC about a meeting between its former CEO, Dame Alison Rose, and Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage.
Davies said he was “extremely disappointed” that Rose had met with Farage, and that the bank had then briefed the BBC about the meeting. However, he said he believed it was “important” for him to stay on as chair to “ensure that the bank continues to focus on its core business”.
The meeting between Rose and Farage took place in December 2019, shortly after Farage had been suspended from the European Parliament. The BBC reported that Farage had asked Rose for financial support for his new party, Reform UK. Rose is said to have declined to provide any financial support, but she did offer to help Farage with his contacts in the City.
The meeting between Rose and Farage has been met with criticism from both within and outside the bank. Some shareholders have called for Davies to resign, while the Labour Party has accused NatWest of “colluding with the far right”.
Davies has defended his decision to stay on as chair, saying that he believes he is the best person to lead the bank through the current challenges. He has also said that he is confident that NatWest is “committed to upholding the highest standards of corporate governance”.
The row over the meeting between Rose and Farage is the latest in a series of controversies to hit NatWest in recent years. The bank was fined £260 million by the Financial Conduct Authority in 2019 for failing to prevent money laundering. It has also been criticized for its handling of the collapse of the Greensill Capital investment firm.
The future of NatWest remains uncertain. The bank is currently in talks with the government about a potential sale. It is also facing competition from a number of new digital banks.