NatWest

NatWest

National Westminster Bank (NatWest) is a retail and commercial bank in the United Kingdom and is one of the Big Four clearing banks in the UK. NatWest operates in Ireland through its subsidiary company, Ulster bank.

NatWest has a large network of more than 960 branches and 3,400 ATM cash machines throughout Great Britain. It also offers 24-hour Action line telephone and online banking services. NatWest has more than 7.5 million personal banking customers and 850,000 small business accounts.

NatWest won the “Best Banking App” in the 2017 British Bank Awards.

 

History

National Westminster Bank Limited commenced trading on 1 January 1970, although the bank’s origins date all the way back to 1658 with the founding of Smith’s Bank of Nottingham. The new bank’s logo was the three arrowheads symbol. It is said to symbolize the circulation of money in the financial system and/or the bank’s three constituents, National Provincial Bank, Westminster Bank, and District Bank.

NatWest, in 1975, was one of the first London banks to open an office in Scotland.

 

Expansion

The bank launched into the securities business as a result of deregulation in the 1980s.

A new marketing-led approach to business development was spearheaded by ‘The Action Bank’ advertising campaign. The bank also expanded internationally.

The bank built the National Westminster Tower (Completed in 1980). The tower, located in London, would serve as its international headquarters. It was the UK’s tallest building for 10 years, at a height of 600 feet (183 m), until the Canary Wharf Tower rose above it.

 

Controversy

The stock market crash of 1987 and involvement in the financial scandal surrounding the collapse of Blue Arrow caused the bank’s expansion strategy to falter. The Department of Trade and Industry published a report that was highly critical of the bank’s management. Several board members resigned, including the chairman.

The bank then focused on its core domestic business as the restyled NatWest Group.

NatWest Tower came under attack by a Provisional IRA bomb in 1993. The bank vacated the building and subsequently sold it.

 

 

NatWest Bank’s subsidiary named NatWest Markets, an investment banking concern formed in 1992, revealed it had discovered a £50m loss in 1997. After further investigation, the bank revised the amount of the loss to £90.5m.

After a lengthy investigation by the Securities and Futures Authority a report in 2000 levied severe criticism against the bank’s internal controls. Its aggressive push into investment banking was questioned. The bank’s entry into complicated derivative products without fully understanding them indicates poor management.

Parts of NatWest Markets were sold by the end of 1997. The remainder of the operation became Greenwich NatWest in 1998.

 

Takeover

A friendly merger with Legal & General, in a £10.7 billion deal, was announced in 1999. This arrangement would be the first between a bank and an insurance company in UK history. London financial markets received the news poorly, and NatWest’s share price fell sharply.

Due to the significantly reduced market capitalization of NatWest, the much smaller Bank of Scotland launched a hostile takeover bid for NatWest. The Bank of Scotland’s goal was to break up the component segments of NatWest Group and dispose of its non-retail assets.

NatWest was forced to withdraw its merger offer, but refused to agree to a takeover by the rival bank. The Royal Bank of Scotland started its own hostile offer and beat the Bank of Scotland with a £21 billion bid. The takeover of NatWest in early 2000 became the largest in UK history.

National Westminster Bank was delisted from the London Stock Exchange, becoming a component of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group. The result of this struggle set off a round of consolidation in the financial sector.

The Royal Bank of Scotland Group rose to the position of second largest bank in the UK and Europe. The bank also became the fifth largest in the world by market capitalization and the 13th largest company in the world, according to Forbes Global 2000.

NatWest was retained as a distinct brand. However, many functions were merged with the Royal Bank, which lead to job losses in excess of 18,000.

 

Recent developments

The Guardian reported on March 20, 2017, that seventeen UK banks may have helped launder KGB-related funds out of Russia. NatWest, processed $1.1 million in these suspicious transactions, is “facing questions over what they knew about the international scheme”.

 

Services

NatWest banking and insurance services to both personal and business commerce customers. NatWest is the first bank in Britain to deliver and support  dedicated bank account entirely in the Polish language.

Your Mortgage Magazine’s Best Bank for Mortgages award has gone to NatWest 13 out of the last 17 years.

 

Litigation

Enron Corporation – Giles Darby, David Bermingham and Gary Mulgrew, known as the NatWest Three, were extradited to the United States in 2006. The charges were related to a transaction with Enron in 2000 that was processed through Greenwich NatWest while they were working for the bank.

An argument was made that this criminal case falls under English court jurisdiction in that alleged crime was committed by British citizens living in the UK while working for a British company, and the alleged victim was a British company based in London.

The Serious Fraud Office did not prosecute this case due to lack of evidence.

In a plea bargain struck on November 28, 2007, the three men admitted to one charge of wire fraud, receiving 37 months in prison.

 

Computer failures

A major computer malfunction, in late June 2012, resulted in incorrect updates within some customers’ accounts. New home purchases were delayed for some customers. Some customers were stranded while overseas. One man was held in prison until the situation was resolved. The worst situation happened when one customer was threatened with the discontinuation of life support machines in a Mexican hospital.

RBS and NatWest responded to their customers’ need to access cash, extended their hours, including the bank’s first Sunday opening ever in its history. On June 25, 2012, as a result of the error, over 1,000 branches opened for extended hours, and the number of phone staff was doubled.