A private bank has been forced to apologise after closing Nigel Farage’s account. How did Coutts manage to inspire support for the former UKIP leader?
In June, Coutts, an exclusive private bank, informed former Ukip leader Nigel Farage that it planned to close his account.
Coutts provides banking services for high net-worth individuals. To open an account with them you must be able to invest or take loans of £1 million, or have £3 million to put into a savings account.
The BBC’s business editor Simon Jack reported that Coutts shut down Farage’s account because the former politician didn’t meet the financial requirements to keep banking with them, citing people familiar with the bank’s decision.
But Nigel Farage suspected that he was let go by the bank because of “prejudice” against his political views.
Farage asked the bank to turn over any correspondence, documents and meeting minutes that referred to him. The documents released by Coutts called Farage “a disingenuous grifter” and “xenophobic and racist” and revealed that the bank’s Wealth Reputational Risk Committee found there were “significant reputational risks” to being associated with Nigel Farage and that his views are “at odds with [the bank’s] position as an inclusive organisation”.
Nigel Farage called the documents from Coutts “horrible” and “vile”. He told Sky News that this was a “case of political discrimination” by the bank.
But Coutts insists that other factors besides Farage’s political views influenced its decision. Nigel Farage had a mortgage with the bank that was due to end in July 2023. At this point his financial interests with the bank were set to fall short of Coutts’ threshold for its clients.
This controversy has caused a big PR headache for the bank, which is owned by NatWest Group. Alison Rose, the group’s chief executive, wrote a letter apologising to Nigel Farage for the language used in the documents. She said: “It is not our policy to exit a customer on the basis of legally held political and personal views,” and offered him an account at the group’s bank of the same name, NatWest.
The story has caused problems for BBC News which reported that the decision to close Nigel Farage’s account was based on him not meeting the financial requirements rather than his political views. It has now apologised to him, saying its story was “from a trusted and senior source”, but “the information turned out to be incomplete and inaccurate.”
Today’s episode was written and mixed by Ella Hill.