It has been “gripping” to watch Nigel Farage’s battle with Coutts and its parent company NatWest, says Dominic Lawson in The Sunday Times. But the real scandal is that “debanking” is far more common than people think. In 2021, more than 5,500 customers of NatWest said their accounts had been abruptly closed, with no explanation. When one couple complained that the decision had left them unable to buy food, staff told them – and “this is not a joke” – that they should use a food bank. Even when victims successfully appealed to the Financial Ombudsman Service, the compensation was “insultingly small”: another couple, “made ill with worry” after their account was frozen, received a measly £100.
Other banks do this too, of course – anti-money-laundering regulations have become stricter, so many institutions think any risk just isn’t worth the bother. When my wife and I tried to open a Barclays account for our daughter Domenica, who has Down’s syndrome, she was initially rejected “without explanation”. The reason, it turned out, was because her grandfather, former chancellor Nigel Lawson, was categorised as a “politically exposed person” – and thus a potential conduit for corrupt cash. But NatWest – perhaps in response to the £265m fine it received in 2021 for accepting “bin liners full of cash” as deposits – seems to be the worst of the lot. And that makes its much-trumpeted claims about “inclusivity” even harder to swallow than they already were.