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NatWest poaches UBS executive to replace ousted Coutts chief | Business News


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The state-backed lender NatWest Group has raided the Swiss banking giant UBS to replace a top Coutts executive who was forced out during last year’s ‘debanking’ row involving Nigel Farage.

Sky News has learnt that NatWest has lured Emma Crystal, who has also worked for Credit Suisse, to become the next chief executive of its wealth management division, which includes Coutts.

Ms Crystal, who is expected to join later this year, will replace Peter Flavel, who left NatWest last summer.

The role is one of the most senior executive positions at NatWest, which is 36%-owned by the government but is now on a path back to full private ownership.

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The chancellor Jeremy Hunt has outlined an ambition to sell a chunk of the government’s stake later this year to ordinary investors, with officials telling MPs this week that the plan could be launched as early as June.

Coutts is arguably the best-known name in the global private banking sector.

It traces its heritage back to 1692, when it was founded by John Campbell.

Thomas Coutts joined the business in 1761, with his surname being adopted as its brand after he died in 1822.

Chief Executive of Coutts private bank, Peter Flavel and Nigel Farage
Peter Flavel (l) stepped down last year amid the Nigel Farage debanking row

It has been part of what is now NatWest since 1969, when the Westminster Bank and National Provincial merged.

Coutts has long been renowned for banking the rich and famous, from Charles Dickens to Queen Elizabeth II.

Ms Crystal’s role will encompass Coutts as well as NatWest’s wider ‘mass affluent’ business – a segment of customers increasingly being pursued by Britain’s high street banks.

An independent review published by NatWest in December found that Coutts had possibly breached rules overseen by the City watchdog after failing to provide reasons for shutting customers’ bank accounts.

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The probe conducted by Travers Smith, a law firm, said, however, that it had uncovered no evidence of political bias in Coutts’ broader decision-making.

“There were a number of shortcomings in our approach to account closures at Coutts and, in particular, in the quality and consistency of our communications,” Mohammad Syed, Coutts’ interim chief executive, said in November.

“The experience of some of our customers fell short of what they should expect, and we apologise to them.”

The report was commissioned in the wake of the row which engulfed NatWest last July when it emerged that Mr Farage’s Coutts account had been closed because it did not like his political views, rather than for the commercial reasons it had claimed.

Read more:
What’s happened with Nigel Farage’s bank accounts

The furore claimed the job of Dame Alison Rose, NatWest’s chief executive, who stepped down after Mr Hunt and Rishi Sunak indicated that they would no longer support her.

Mr Flavel, a former private banker at JP Morgan, had run Coutts for years, and stepped down by mutual agreement shortly after Paul Thwaite replaced Dame Alison as interim CEO.

However, the debanking row appeared to have done little to damage Coutts’ business, with NatWest’s third-quarter results disclosing that deposits of just over £37bn had actually risen during the period.

A NatWest spokeswoman declined to comment.

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