NatWest boss U-turns on snub of Westminster committee after plea to ensure it won’t be an all-male panel
The boss of NatWest has U-turned on her decision not to appear in front of MPs next week as they scrutinise the UK’s biggest banks on why savings rates are so low while borrowing costs have spiked.
Dame Alison Rose, NatWest’s chief executive, came under pressure from the Treasury Committee after saying she was too busy to attend the meeting.
Harriett Baldwin, the committee’s newly elected chair, said before the U-turn: “I am very keen that all the major banks’ top executives appear before our Committee.
“I am particularly keen that it should not be an all-male panel, because we want to send out a message to younger women in banking that they can reach the very top.”
NatWest had insisted it would put its chief executive of retail banking, David Lindberg, in front of the committee instead, because he was best placed to talk about consumer issues.
But the banking giant made a U-turn on this decision and Dame Alison is now due to attend, alongside the UK chief executives of Barclays and HSBC, and the group chief executive of Lloyds Bank.
A NatWest spokesperson said: “Following further discussions with the Treasury Committee on the vital issues at hand, Alison Rose will be attending next week’s committee hearing.”
The hearing is set to question the bank executives over why their customers can expect to earn just 0.5% to 0.65% interest on basic savings accounts.
Meanwhile, people with a variable-rate mortgage were paying more than 4% interest at the end of 2022, up from 2% at the start of the year, according to the Bank of England.
The committee said it could also explore whether banks are boosting their profits by increasing the gap between the interest paid out to savers, and the interest paid in by borrowers.
Banks have come under scrutiny in recent months for reporting significantly higher profits after raking in more income from higher borrowing costs, although the big lenders have insisted they are not yet seeing any significant signs of stress from borrowers.
MPs may also question the chiefs over the impact of sweeping bank branch closures and how they are supporting customers who need access to cash.
Ms Baldwin said: “We look forward to questioning the leaders of the UK’s biggest banks on issues of fundamental importance to our constituents.
“Public scrutiny of our largest financial institutions is vital.
“We look forward to hearing their views on a variety of topics, including savings rates, the outlook for the mortgage market, bank branch closures and changes to financial services regulations.”
The probe will take place on Tuesday morning in the Houses of Parliament.
NatWest has been approached for further comment.
Anna Wise – Press Association