The national debate
written by Angela Knight on 05/02/2012
There has been a national debate about the future of banking, and for the most part it has brought us to a better place. Here in the UK we have moved further and faster than any other country. Any changes which have not been made are at least well underway, while the great global coordinators of change are still just talking. Here the industry gets it: we understand what needs to be done and we are getting it done. Those who were in charge as the crisis developed have left the industry now, and a new breed has taken control. Regulators called for stability and caution and they have got it. Even pay is regulated, and has been for more than two years now.
But the public commentary has not kept up with this progress. Too often we hear opinion formers sweeping the facts to one side and distorting the debate.
In many respects this culminated in the events of the past week, which has seen people inflamed by aggressive rhetoric and individuals pilloried. Due process and the principle of fairness were set aside in favour of expediency. Politicians made inflammatory speeches, the media reported, and the politicians made more speeches. Some condemned business generally.
What was it all for? No doubt at the end someone is doing better in the polls than might otherwise have been the case. And everyone hates bankers so who cares if a few of them get hurt?
We should all care. If we want this national debate to bring constructive results, we need to end the personal pillorying and the lobbing of catchy but insubstantial soundbites.
The banks understand they are essential to Britain’s economic recovery. And they care about the recovery, and the jobs and prosperity which only recovery can bring. To do that we need to work together rather than sacrifice the progress we have worked hard to achieve.
written by Stephen on 05/02/2012
It won’t do. Only the breakup of the banks into hundreds of competing fragments will do. Let the market regulate, not some dozy regulator who the banks will run rings around.
written by Nikki Turner on 05/02/2012
Ms Knight, had due process and the principles of fairness been observed by the bankers, there would be no debate. In some cases (I dare say not all) bankers have held the British public in utter contempt and, as neither the previous Government nor the regulators were able or willing to rein in reckless behaviour followed by demands for excessive reward, the public have arrived at the point of utter exasperation.
Almost certainly the British public would like to work with the financial sector to rebuild the economy - that has proved impossible. While thousands continue to lose their jobs (including people in the banks) and while there is little opportunity for SMEs to get back on their feet because entrepreneurs cannot get realistic funding, the bankers continue to expect big wage packets and big bonuses.
And perhaps the greatest disappointment and the biggest cause of antagonism between bankers and the public, is the way in which serious and criminal actions in banks are continually swept under the carpet. Is it possible that all the monumental catastrophe’s in the banks were down to mismanagement and lack of judgement? Only someone incredibly naive would accept that explanation. And were that the case, should we not be asking how millions of pounds in pensions and savings were entrusted to incompetent people? The truth is there were/are many examples of totally corrupt behaviour by individuals in the banks and that behaviour, was just as instrumental for the billions of pounds of losses, as any ‘Global Credit Crunch.’ But has anyone been held responsible? No. bankers have been seen to be above the law and that injustice continues to fuel the anger of a population living in very austere conditions. The bankers have stuck two fingers up to an entire nation and they still expect to be liked and rewarded? That isn’t just optimism, it’s insanity.
If you think a few bankers were hurt last week because the Government pandered to populist opinion, you should take a look at the real world where hundreds of thousands of people have been hurt by bankers (some titled) who have displayed no interest or concern for society as long as they continued to feather their own ermine lined nests. No amount of PR or soundbites from the BBA will resolve this issue. You can fool some of the people some of the time â€“ it’s always foolish to try and fool all of the people, even for a minute.
When bankers wake up to the principles of fairness, I’m sure society will welcome them back.
written by P Butler on 05/02/2012
I agree, we do need a debate on banking. We need a debate on whether or not we need banks at all. If we do what purpose do they actually serve other than rampant consumerism.
Banks if they are to serve any useful purpose in society must strive to reflect the society in which they exist. This means that despite your plees for non personal attacks and bank pillorying in general, banks must return to being servants of society not the masters as they seem to be at the moment.
Questions need to be asked about how banks meet the real social needs of society rather than the ROI requirements of a few self serving and self selecting individuals at the top of society.
This means that they don’t avoid and cajole, manipulate and influence politics for more favorable tax status etc. It means that instead of handing a few million to this or that charity or saying how “we’ll donate “x” for every “y” to a charity A this year and B next year, that they just accept they exist, their staff exist and thrive in countries that rely on taxable income to maintain infrastructure.
It means that not every decision banks and bankers make should come down to the pure business case “what will it make or save me on my bottom line?”
There is a wider debate to be had in society about whether we can actually afford to have banks at all. Not just in “The too big to fail” but also in the methods used and supported by them. Can the world live as the western world has for the last 20 years or so? Are there sufficient resources? Should banks be promoting personal loans and extended credit to buy and replace items that are perfectly serviceable? Will our lives really be transformed by the latest igadget? Will our appreciation of art, culture & knowledge grow just because we have the latest TV? Indeed will seeing Eastenders and Xfactor in 3d really be so much better?
All of the gadgets and contrivances of engineers and marketeers will make little difference to us in reality. We know that to have them, we must work harder than we’ve ever worked. We must make up for those who have been cast aside in the ruthless pursuit of cost management to actually assess whether we even enjoy the things we work so hard for.
Why do we do all of this, because I argue as a society we are all driven by the very things that have driven bank behaviour and corporate giants all over the world, “The bottom line”. We have lost our understanding of value in a rush to maximise our consumption. To misquote a phrase will anybody be lying on their deathbed saying I wish I’d borrowed more to buy XX product?
The financial services sector has stolen, yes stolen generations of talented, skilled creative thinkers from our best universities and put them to work on creating what? Complex instruments of economic destruction! For what purpose? how have these few individuals actually made life better through the creation of these tools?
That these people were were so easily led is a tragedy of Shakesperian proportions, for their 30 pieces of silver they have sold the world. When they could have been creating and leading teams to better understand both the planet and ourselves they were so easily corrupted by the lure of wealth.
There is so much that needs debate, and we need most to debate whether capitalism is in fact good for all of us?
written by Richard on 05/02/2012
The astonishing number of half-truths and downright lies here are evidence enough that no, Angela Knight, you just don’t get it.
written by jck on 05/02/2012
great piece. thx.
written by kevin forbes on 10/02/2012
Dear Ms Knight,
Who are you talking to? Are you trying to connect to the millions of face book and other social net working people, whom have been aggressively mis-sold the truth about the financial system and the credit crunch, by government and its media and politicians to deflect their own historical push on new financial instruments like by to let mortgages (to boost the housing markets) and others, to be inline with US markets, but also provide the initial collapse of interlinked financial markets due to the massive capital accesses involved. Or real people.
People are not interested, they just need some one to blame and almost every one has their own view of banks, as the do about the NHS etc.
How ever, as with public service organisations, and many unionised work forces, they do present their case, and causes when the general public, government or media seek to undermined or question.
People are right to ask, and right to be informed and understand, and then make their own choice of giving their support or not.
From 2008 to date I believe we can say that the Banking and Financial sector has failed unbelievably to explain and help the vast majority of people in this country to wish to give their support of the sector and its needs.
For this, the sector only has its self to blame, and it will dissipate to other markets offerings and domains in the years to come, and when the general public see the real effect of what has happened, they will say to organisations such as yours,
WHY DID YOU NOT TELL US?
Sadly I am one of the many thousands who has given twenty years to the banking sector and been unemployed for over 6 years, because of this, and endured social pressure.
If any one in the Banking and finance sector think that it is worth saving now, while you still can, I suggest that the banks and its related organisations come together to achieve this, if you rely on the government and itâ€™s treasury to save this sector and the countries need for the UK to be key in the global world, this is not possible.
The day to do some thing is NOW.