Award-winning artist Mary Anne Aytoun Ellis has been asked to make 20 drawings for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, but was left struggling after Nationwide blocked her accounts
Image: Mary Anne Aytoun Ellis)
This project has encouraged Brits to ‘plant a tree for the Jubilee’, with households, Scout and Girl Guides, counties schools and businesses all taking part.
Mary Anne, who specialises in drawing nature, was asked to create 20 artworks of beautiful ancient trees around the country.
These tree drawings form part of The Queen’s Green Canopy project and will be published in a book as well.
But Mary Anne’s ability to work was threatened when Nationwide froze the four accounts she has with them on May 4, including two jointly with her husband.
Mary Anne Aytoun Ellis)
It all started when, on May 4, Mary Anne got a call from Nationwide staff, asking her for more information.
Thinking the call could be a scam, Mary Anne said she did not want to give personal details over the phone and instead wanted to go to her trusted local Nationwide branch.
Ten minutes later she received a text to her mobile, again saying it was from Nationwide, and saying without more information her account would be blocked.
Mary Anne, who has banked with Nationwide for 23 years, went to her local branch to find out more.
Mary Anne Aytoun Ellis)
The branch staff told her she had done the right thing to be wary of scams, but then she discovered all her accounts with Nationwide had been frozen because of suspected fraudulent activity by her.
Nationwide said they had emailed her about the issue on April 24, before freezing her accounts.
But the email, seen by The Mirror, did not arrive until May 10 – by which time her accounts had been frozen for seven days.
“It’s really knocked me for six,” Mary Anne said. “I’m working around the clock. Being an artist means I don’t have a regular income, and this is unbelievably stressful.
“I feel like I’m being treated like a criminal – I’m staggered by it. I’m cut off from my means of living – my life.
“I have been struck by the total lack of communication by Nationwide, though my local branch have been lovely.”
Mary Anne was asked to fill in a long form, asking if she owned assets like antiques, stocks or jewellery, how much they were worth and how she got them, and for details of anything she was ever left in a will.
She says the form was “incredibly detailed, intrusive and long” and took her a whole day to fill in.
She said she had little information from Nationwide about the problem, but thinks her irregular payments for her work might have looked suspicious.
Her Jubilee artwork required her to travel all over the country, and Mary Anne says the frozen bank account has not helped.
Her assistant and husband have been forced to help with transport and other costs, and Mary Anne was left unable to pay her mortgage.
After The Mirror contacted Nationwide the building society unblocked Mary Anne’s accounts, apologised and offered her £150 in compensation.
However, Mary Anne says Nationwide also sent her a stern final email saying if she ever broke the rules with her accounts then it would close them permanently.
A Nationwide spokesperson said: “To meet our regulatory requirements sometimes we need to ask for some more detailed information from our members as part of an Enhanced Due Diligence process.
“Members are assessed against a range of factors and those who are considered higher risk are then asked further questions about their total net worth. While someone may be considered ‘higher risk’ it does not mean that we believe they have done anything of concern.
“In this case, Ms Aytoun-Ellis did meet the criteria, which is why she received the request for further information. “