UK News

Financial watchdog to ask MPs about debanking experiences

The Financial Conduct Authority is to ask MPs to reveal whether they have encountered any problems accessing bank accounts or faced being ‘debanked' (Gareth Fuller/PA)
Anna Wise, PA Business Reporter

British politicians are to be asked to reveal whether they have encountered any problems accessing bank accounts or faced being “debanked”, as part of an inquiry by the UK’s financial watchdog.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said it is looking into the rules surrounding politically exposed persons (PEPs), which includes MPs.

The regime was thrust into the spotlight after former Ukip leader Nigel Farage revealed that Coutts, which is owned by NatWest Group, had moved to shut down his bank account.

Mr Farage was identified as a PEP – someone who holds public office in the UK or overseas, or has a family member who does. It means financial firms must treat their accounts with extra due diligence.

PEPs could effectively pose more of a risk of abusing their position for personal gain, such as by making or accepting bribes, according to the FCA’s guidance from 2017.

But the watchdog is now looking into whether banks apply the rules too rigorously and if they need to be updated.

As part of its review, the FCA is sending a letter out to British MPs on Tuesday.

A spokesman for the regulator said: “We are reviewing how financial services firms have applied the politically exposed persons (PEPs) regime and whether any changes are needed for UK PEPs.

“We are keen to hear directly from UK PEPs on their experiences, including any problems they have encountered – so we’re proactively reaching out to parliamentarians and other UK PEPs at an early stage.”

FCA sign
The Financial Conduct Authority is beginning an inquiry into the rules surrounding politically exposed persons (Alamy/PA)

As well as MPs, peers, and chairs of political parties polling more than 5%, it is expected to engage with senior civil servants and the higher ranks of the armed forces.

They will be asked to share their experiences in dealing with financial firms and particularly where it proved to be negative, which could include being refused an account or being debanked.

Last month, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt told the Financial Times he had been denied a bank account with Monzo.

The Farage scandal culminated in the resignations of NatWest chief executive Dame Alison Rose and Coutts boss Peter Flavel.

NatWest also said it is undergoing an independent review into how Mr Farage’s case was handled and the steps leading up to the decision to close his Coutts accounts.

The FCA is expected to publish the full terms of its review into the PEP rules in September and report back by June next year.

It is separately investigating the UK’s biggest banks and building societies to find out how many customers have had their accounts terminated or suspended, or been denied banking services, and the reasons why.