Alison rose

As we are all aware from the wall-to-wall media coverage, the CEO of NatWest Bank has been forced to resign over the ‘debanking’ of Nigel Farage.

She was, of course, left with no option as making unguarded comments to a journalist (of all people) was unwise in the extreme and broke the cardinal banking rule - all customers’ details are strictly private and confidential (even if it is Nigel Farage!) The documents put before the Coutts Wealth Reputational Risk Committee, made public by Farage, referred to him, among other things, as a “disingenuous grifter”.

Banks should never have the right to debank anyone just because they do not agree with their views, opinions or political stance - that is not their job and nor should it ever be. And perhaps this was the problem that led to this disaster – was Rose trying to make the bank too ‘woke’?

She was once the darling of the FTSE 100. A longtime NatWest employee, Alison Rose spent 27 years working her way up from graduate trainee to become the group’s first female Chief Executive in 2019.

The ambitious banker was meant to be a breath of fresh air for the beleaguered group – then known as Royal Bank of Scotland – which had suffered significant blows to its reputation after a string of scandals and a near-collapse that led to a £45bn state bailout at the height of the 2008 financial crisis.

Rose wasted no time making sweeping changes, including ditching the near-300 year-old RBS name in a bid to refresh its image three months into her tenure.

“Everything she did was centred on how it affected business,” a colleague at NatWest said. “She was 100% laser-focused on what decisions meant for customers, shareholders, for the bank. The sense was, if it doesn’t do something positive, I’m not doing it.”

The episode could not be further from Rose’s usual air of equanimity and discretion. While she attracted criticism for collecting a £5.2m pay package and cash bonus amid rising interest rates earlier this year, most describe her as a steady, but not flashy, leader. Her peers describe her as “loyal” and “careful”, leaving many surprised by both the scandal and her departure.

The 53-year-old’s fall from grace follows years of government support and accolades. Even before she took over as Chief Executive, she was tapped to lead a government inquiry into female-led businesses that ultimately bore her name. In the 2023 New Year’s Honours List, she was recognised for “services to financial services” and helping restore NatWest to stability and profitability.

The Rose Review was a seminal piece of work on the empowerment of female business owners, followed by the bank making £1billion available to support them. It was so successful that they made another billion available.

She was also keen to move women through the ranks of the bank to ensure they had equal opportunities to reach the top jobs. But, in pushing the ‘woke’ agenda, did she step outside of the bounds of banking? No banking institution should be allowed to have an opinion on the beliefs of their clients. If they keep to their credit limits and don’t overdraw, banks have zero right to debank any customer.

With Rose’s rise through the bank from trainee to CEO there could be no better person to run the bank and bring a true understanding of what business needs and especially what female business owners require.

I met Alison on a few occasions and came away with nothing but a very sound opinion of her, and her departure is a great loss to the banking industry, and to women across the country. But she is a far too valuable to be dumped for good and I can assure you that we will see her again in another role, albeit not within banking, and I would not be surprised to see her appointed to a government advisory role in the not too distant future.

Related Posts

27 Missing out on the buying power of women

’And there is even space for your handbag madam…’ This is absolutely not what most women want to hear when buying...

27 The island of Lesvos

Lesvos is one of the places I remember having the most liberated times in my early twenties. Those days were formative, really; having...

27 The works of Adela Powell

August 14th 2023 would have been Adela Powell’s 78th birthday. What better way than to mark the occasion by honouring her and...