08 February 2024

NatWest appoints UBS executive to become head of Coutts

08 February 2024

NatWest Group has appointed a UBS executive to head up its wealth business, including high-net-worth bank Coutts, after it was at the centre of a debanking crisis which led to the resignation of two of its bosses.

Emma Crystal will become chief executive in the summer, moving from her current job managing the sustainable finance unit at the Swiss banking giant.

The announcement comes more than six months after Peter Flavel resigned as boss of the wealth division, admitting that Coutts had “fallen below the bank’s high standards of personal service” in how it handled former politician Nigel Farage’s account.

Mr Farage, who was the leader of the UK Independence Party (Ukip), said his Coutts account was shut down because it did not agree with his political views.

The accusations sparked a series of problems for the banking group.

I am looking forward to working with my new colleagues to deliver the exceptional service our clients deserve

NatWest’s chief executive Dame Alison Rose admitted to making a “serious error of judgment” when she discussed Mr Farage’s case with a BBC journalist.

She resigned in July following pressure on the bank.

But an independent review commissioned by NatWest later found that there was no evidence of discrimination because of political views in Coutts’ decision to close customer accounts.

It nonetheless recognised there are “lessons to be learned” and apologised to customers.

Incoming boss Ms Crystal will report directly to NatWest’s interim chief executive Paul Thwaite, and will also join the board of Coutts.

She has held wealth management leadership roles at Credit Suisse, which was bought by UBS last year, and started her career in investment banking at Deutsche Bank.

Ms Crystal said she was “delighted” to be joining the bank, adding: “I am looking forward to working with my new colleagues to deliver the exceptional service our clients deserve.”

Mr Thwaite said Ms Crystal’s extensive wealth management experience makes her the “ideal person” to lead the business.

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