The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority ( FCA ) has actively urged the largest UK banks and building societies to promptly provide comprehensive details about recent account closures. With the submission deadline set for 25 August, the FCA is diligently seeking a thorough understanding of account closures of UK banks. The data sought encompasses an accurate count of customers directly affected by terminations, suspensions, or service denials. Equally important, the FCA is rigorously investigating the underlying reasons behind each decision. Moreover, the regulatory body actively engages in scrutinizing the number of complaints received regarding these closures.
“Political or other opinions”
The regulator’s investigation will furthermore extend to meticulously examining whether account closures have occurred due to “political or other opinions”. This significant step follows a highly publicized dispute between NatWest Group and Nigel Farage, a conflict that resulted in the departure of NatWest’s chief executive, Alison Rose. Farage asserted that the bank’s private banking division, Coutts, closed his account due to a misalignment of his political views with the bank’s core values. Nevertheless, the bank firmly maintained that its decision for the closure was commercially motivated.
The FCA is significantly expanding its examination to comprehensively encompass a wide range of personal and business customers, spanning from pawnbrokers and charities to political parties. This broader scope reflects the regulator’s primary objective, which is to diligently attain a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the intricate reasons and broader scale underlying these account closures.
In its probe, the FCA intends to engage major payment firms. It has committed to providing an initial assessment by “mid-September” and sharing its findings with UK Chancellor Jeremy Hunt.
This initiative marks the formal launch of the regulator’s recent data collection endeavor, as presented through a letter from FCA Chief Executive Nikhil Rathi to Jeremy Hunt. In the letter, Rathi underscored the “significant increase” in account closures and strongly emphasized the necessity to comprehensively establish the extent to which these closures might be unjustified or in violation of the law. He firmly stated, “As the regulator, it is critically important that we thoroughly understand the scale of the issue and the underlying drivers behind the reported increase in account terminations.”