The 92-year-old is among the hundreds of NatWest customers living overseas to have their accounts closed, a new report revealed.
Philip Cato was part of the Windrush generation and lived in Britain for over 50 years. He has since retired to Jamaica to take care for his elderly mother.
Mr Cato relies on his state pension and a small annuity for his income, however, when NatWest closed down his account, it cut him off from his state pension – leaving him and his wife, Una, struggling to make ends meet.
He told The Independent: “Una is up all night worrying about this, wondering when this pension thing is going to be sorted out.
“Our medical fund is running out because we’ve been living on that to survive. The whole thing is putting such a strain on us.”
He received a letter from NatWest which advised him that his account would close in February because of the bank’s “difficult decision to reduce the number of countries in which we service our customers”.
Dated July, the letter should have given him six months to sort out his affairs. However, it did not reach him for three months, shortening the window to transfer his pension payments to a new account.
Despite their efforts to transfer the pension payments to a new account, they encountered difficulties in reaching the International Pension Centre. As a result, they missed payments totalling over £2,000.
Mr Cato’s daughter Judy said the “stressful” situation had impacted him, his 82-year-old wife and their family, who found it impossible to get help from the bank to access the thousands of pounds it had withheld.
With her parents in an increasingly precarious financial position, Judy tried to contact the pension service but could not make headway and ended up making an official complaint.
She said: “The situation brought me to tears quite a few times.
“I started sending them money as best I could, but with the cost of living here it was difficult.”
NatWest said it had pulled the plug on some overseas personal account to focus on the UK market.
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But customers told The Independent they had been left without sufficient warning of the closures or inadequate support on how to access their money, with Mr Cato’s lawyer saying she believed hundreds of customers had been affected.
A spokesperson for NatWest said: “We have taken the decision to stop offering banking services to a number of personal customers in some countries of residence outside the UK.
“We’re doing so as we focus on investing in and providing great services for those customers in our core market. We will always get in touch directly with impacted customers if any changes are made to their account-servicing arrangements.
“We will always treat customers fairly by giving them clear information and timelines about next steps.”
This comes after former Brexit Party Nigel Farage said his bank account was unfairly shut down by private bank Coutts, owned by NatWest Group, because it did not agree with his political views. The row sparked an outcry and led to the resignation of NatWest boss Dame Alison Rose.
The latest data from the City watchdog, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) – before Hunt’s latest requests – revealed that banks were closing close to 1,000 accounts every day, with just over 343,000 shut in 2021-22.
In recent years, Brexit has been a factor, as many high street banks closed the accounts of non-UK residents. More recently that retrenchment has gone global, with readers living New Zealand and Brazil contacting the Guardian after the loss of their account back home.
The FCA says whether or not banks extend services to customers outside the UK is a commercial decision.
However, the watchdog expects banks to “treat their customers fairly, comply with equalities legislation, and provide adequate notice to the customer if they decide to close their account”.
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