(Sharecast News) – Prominent business leader Rick Haythornthwaite looked set to become the new chairman of NatWest Group, according to a report from Sky News on Wednesday, amid ongoing controversies around the bank’s decision to close accounts of political figure Nigel Farage.
Haythornthwaite, currently the chair of Ocado and the AA, was expected to succeed Sir Howard Davies in the coming days, Sky News claimed.

He previously led companies including Centrica, Network Rail, and MasterCard International.

NatWest, which remains nearly 40% taxpayer-owned, found itself at the centre of a public relations crisis over recent weeks following the closure of Nigel Farage’s accounts with its subsidiary Coutts.

The bank initially said the accounts were closed for “commercial reasons”, although it later emerged that Farage’s political views and reputation played a role in the decision, sparking considerable uproar and drawing attention from regulators.

The then-CEO of NatWest, Dame Alison Rose, stepped down in the wake of the scandal, with several reviews underway regarding the situation, including two internal inquiries by the bank.

A separate review was being undertaken by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) into how the financial industry handled ‘politically-exposed persons; (PEPs).

Among Haythornthwaite’s immediate responsibilities would be identifying a permanent successor to Dame Alison, Sky News said.

Paul Thwaite, one of the bank’s top executives who was elevated to the role on an interim basis, could be in the running.

“Rick is passionate about Britain and believes NatWest is an important company for the country,” Sky News quoted a friend close to the business leader as saying.

Although Haythornthwaite’s executive career was primarily in industrial sectors rather than banking, he was reportedly considered by government and regulators as a reliable choice, having overseen the acquisition of VocaLink during his time at MasterCard, and recently leading a review of armed forces incentivisation for the Ministry of Defence.

NatWest had not yet commented on the matter late on Wednesday morning.

At 1107 BST, shares in NatWest Group were down 0.78% at 228.2p.

Reporting by Josh White for Sharecast.com.

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