Review finds no evidence banks closed accounts due to ‘political views’

There is no evidence of banks denying politicians access to accounts over the last year due to their political views, a review by the regulator has said.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said the evidence it has gathered “suggests that no firm closed an account between July 2022 and June 2023 primarily because of a customer’s political views”.

It said it plans to work further with banks, building societies and payment companies to verify the data they supplied and better understand why and when they close accounts due to reputational risk.

The probe was launched in August after Coutts Bank decided to end its relationship with former Ukip leader Nigel Farage.

Mr Farage claimed the account was shut due to his political opinions.

The financial institution took into account the fact his mortgage would shortly be paid off and also discussed potential “reputational risk to the bank”, an internal document compiled by Coutts showed.

The FCA acknowledged on Tuesday it had gathered information “at speed” and said it will do more to “address gaps in the data”.

“While no bank, building society or payment firm reported to us that they had closed accounts primarily due to someone’s political views, further work is needed for us to be sure,” FCA chief executive Nikhil Rathi said.

The FCA said it will focus on “outlier firms” when ensuring the data provided is accurate.

It will also look into why there are 1.1 million people in the UK who do not have a bank account and what kind of people fall into this category.

“As we undertake that work, the time is also right for a debate on how we balance access to bank accounts with the threat of financial crime, as well as firms’ reasonable risk and commercial appetites,” Mr Rathi said.

“An important question for policy makers is whether all individuals, businesses and organisations should have the right to an account, as is the case in some other countries.

“What’s more, international comparisons suggest robust digital identities could play an important role not only in countering financial crime but also in aiding financial inclusion.”