OpinionNov 19 2015

Name and shame

Search supported by

The banks are gathering their troops again to take shots at the FCA; this time it is over the HBoS report due out today, Thursday.

The City regulator, limping along without a full-time chief executive, is under enormous pressure from Whitehall, mainly the Treasury, to go easy on HBoS. Nothing of the sort. Unless the forthcoming report is fair and transparent, by which the general public means blaming individuals and naming names, then it will be seen as a whitewash.

Whispers that the statute of limitations may restrict what the report may say or recommend will be seen, rightly, as disingenuous. As things stand, many people are already asking why none of these senior bankers has been questioned forensically under caution about events at HBoS. However they shout, HBoS senior executives and directors have a case to answer.

It is interesting that a report for the BBA, no doubt written with the greatest integrity, calls for lighter-touch regulation. The threat to British banks is not over-regulation, although how a former supporter of the regulatory system can now turn tailcoat is disappointing; nor is it over-taxation. The threat is one of transparency, governance and ethical behaviour. If the banks, through their trade body, are saying these requirements are too much, then we are in a bad way.

But the chorus remains the same: banks pay £31.3bn to the taxman, and employ more that 400,000 people. Ordinary people support our banks, as is evidenced by the reluctance to move accounts even when they have a justifiable case.

Nor should we get the retail banking, which should be ring-fenced, and international and investment banking mixed up. Retail banks have nothing to do with cross-border lending, derivatives, SPVs and the other creations of our brilliant financial engineers. People just want a simple service from these banks, leaving the big boys to play the complex, highly mathematical games.

The chancellor was right when he called, in his Mansion House speech, for Britain to have the best and most competitive banks. What is wrong with that?