WHEN the history books come to record the battle between Dame Alison Rose and Nigel Farage, they will surely show there was only one winner.

Farage, the former UKIP leader who played a key role in securing the vote for Brexit in 2016, is spending the tail end of 2023 on a reality TV show in Australia.

It has been reported that the politician and GB News presenter will earn £1.5 million from his appearance on ITV’s I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! Not a bad return for padding around the jungle for a few days with some other minor celebrities and exotic insects, some of which he may be required to eat. No doubt Mr Farage will also be able to use the platform to share his political views.

Dame Alison, on the other hand, will end the year in far less triumphant fashion. A year that started on such a high – the banker received a damehood for services to financial services in the King’s first New Year Honours – will likely end with Dame Alison without a high-profile job. Moreover, as her former employer recently confirmed, she will also miss out on around £7.6 million in potential bonuses that she may have accrued had she remained as chief executive of NatWest Group.

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Looking back on the events of the summer it seems incredible that such an experienced executive could leave herself so exposed to losing a job she spent decades working towards.

The woes of Dame Alison, who had joined NatWest as a graduate in the 1990s, stemmed from a conversation she had with BBC journalist Simon Jack about the financial affairs of Mr Farage, at a dinner. Subsequently, a story appeared in the BBC stating that Coutts, NatWest’s private banking business, had decided to close Mr Farage’s accounts on the grounds they were no longer economically viable for the bank.

The story sparked outrage from the populist politician who, following a subject access request, discovered that some managers at Coutts had expressed concern over his political views.

Never a man to pass up a good public relations opportunity, Mr Farage declared to the media that he had effectively been “de-banked” on account of the opinions he holds, an argument which attracted a good deal of public support.

Ultimately, Dame Alison’s indiscretion caused her to lose her job. After admitting to being the source of the BBC story and issuing an apology to Mr Farage, she initially retained the support of the board, led by chairman Sir Howard Davies.

But within hours of that vote of confidence she was gone, as the bank seemingly gave way to pressure from Downing Street for her to stand down. The bank remains 38.7% owned by the UK Government, a legacy of its £45.5 billion bailout during the financial crisis of 2008/ 2009, though Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt raised the prospect yesterday of a retail sale of the public's NatWest shares taking place at some stage over the next 12 months.

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For Dame Alison, this was a brutal end to a long and successful career with NatWest, which had seen her rise to become the first woman to lead the bank when she was appointed chief executive in 2019. But the negative press did not end there for NatWest and its former boss.

In the wake of the Farage scandal, the bank commissioned law firm Travers Smith to carry out an independent review into the circumstances which led to details of Mr Farage’s affairs being leaked to the BBC by Dame Alison and the decision to close his accounts.

The first phase of the review was announced by the bank on the day it reported its third-quarter results in October, and it made for painful reading for the lender.

The report found the bank was responsible for a “number of serious failings” in its treatment of Mr Farage, including “clear shortcomings” in the decision by Coutts to close his accounts and “failure in how [the bank] communicated with him in relation to client confidentiality”.

It judged that the move to shut the accounts had been lawful and a “predominantly commercial decision”, but also concluded that Coutts had weighed up perceived risks to its reputation, “in the eyes of its stakeholders”, from public statements made by the politician “on issues such as the environment, race, gender and migration”.

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Farage branded the report a “whitewash” and “laughable”. He said: “The law firm argues that my political views 'not aligning with those of the bank' was not in itself a political decision. This is laughable.”

A separate row meanwhile has centred on the pay due to Dame Alison under her severance deal. There was controversy when it emerged in August that she would be in line for a pay-off that could have been worth as much as £10m, taking potential bonuses into account.

However, following a review, the bank announced earlier this month that “good leaver status is not applicable under the relevant share plan rules”, meaning that Dame Alison would forego £7,579,604 in lapsed unvested share awards and bonuses or variable remuneration.

She will continue to receive fixed pay elements of her package for the remainder of her contractual notice period, which will end on July 26, 2024. The total value of the remainder of the notice period is £1,748,142, the bank said, when it announced the findings of its review on November 10.

While NatWest will doubtless be hoping the row fizzles out, Mr Farage has not finished yet. It has been reported that the politician has instructed lawyers to begin legal action against the bank, seeking damages to his reputation and to cover his legal costs.

Whether we have heard the last from Dame Alison is a different matter.

Will she seek some form of corporate redemption? Can she find a role that will allow her to offer the many years of high-level banking experience she has amassed to another financial institution?

Or will she think enough is enough after enduring such a gruelling experience?

One thing that seems certain is that 2024 will be nowhere near as controversial as 2023 proved to be for the one-time City darling, despite its auspicious beginning.