Home Estate Planning Paul Thwaite: Who is the veteran tasked with steadying Natwest after the Farage debanking scandal?

Paul Thwaite: Who is the veteran tasked with steadying Natwest after the Farage debanking scandal?

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Natwest capped off a tumultuous year today with bumper profits and the appointment of a permanent chief executive, as the state-backed lender looks to put the Nigel Farage debanking scandal into the rear view mirror.

Paul Thwaite, who was appointed as interim chief executive in July, will now be tasked with steadying the ship as the firm heads into a crunch year in which the government will offload its remaining stake to retail investors.

Thwaite faces an uphill battle to win back the confidence of the market. Shares in Natwest are trading down over 25 per cent following a tumultuous 12 months in which former chief Dame Alison Rose was ousted over a leak to a BBC journalist related to the closure of Nigel Farage’s bank account at its subsidiary Coutts.

A 26 year veteran of the firm who previously headed its commercial and institutional business, Thwaite’s appointment – and Natwest’s bumper profits – were welcomed by markets as shares in the firm surged beyond five per cent.

Matt Britzman, an equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said it was little surprise the bank had opted for an insider.

“What NatWest needs is some stability at the helm so it’s not too surprising to see the board opt for an internal replacement,” he added. “Paul knows the business well, has plenty of experience across various banking roles and looks to be a good appointment for the permanent position.”

Analysts at Quilter said having passed the “passed the live audition” Thwaite was likely to now usher in a steady strategy for the bank. 

“He is clearly the continuity candidate having previously run the group’s Commercial and Institutional business,” said Quilter analyst Will Howlett. “The results today suggest a continuation of the strategy rather than anything more transformational that an outsider may have brought.”

Thwaite has been given an early boon by rocketing profits in 2023. The bank notched its biggest numbers since 2007 as its net interest margin, the gap between what a bank is earning in interest compared to the amount it is paying in interest on deposits, surged 19 basis points, 3.04 per cent higher than 2022.

Natwest credits Thwaite with a “central” role in the formulation and execution of its major strategy reviews in 2014 and 2019, describing him as leading “the development and delivery of a number of industry-leading initiatives and programmes”. 

“Foremost amongst these were his leadership of the group’s response to supporting businesses throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, and his ownership of NatWest’s integrated payments and embedded finance strategy,” the firm says in a profile on its website. 

Natwest has played a prominent part of political conversation already this year as it becomes the centrepiece of a government drive to get retail investors into the stock market.

The government, which still owns around 36 per cent of the firm after a financial crisis bailout, is expected to offload its remaining stake to amateur investors this summer.

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