Bank of EnglandAug 2 2017

Make room for Sonia Libor

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Make room for Sonia Libor

Some people may not like Andrew Bailey's delivery but as chief executive of the City regulator he is tackling head on some of the big issues that have dominated retail financial services.

The FCA has issued papers on the asset management industry, and its pattern of overcharging; he is dealing with DB transfers, adapting to the new scenario that – maybe, in some instances, a transfer may be a good thing – at least while transfer values are high.

Now it is tackling Libor (the London Interbank Offered Rate), and basically saying the concept will be abolished. It is not yet clear what will replace it, but it was obvious that the end was nigh.

The premise of Libor was that it involved an agreement between traders to set it at the rate they think is correct – an estimate; this was plausible in a world which was based on a 'gentleman's agreement', but in the current world of bonuses and incentives, it was extremely easy to manipulate and is perhaps surprising that the regulators have only recently caught up to it.

The brave new world of financial services relies on computing power, and one mooted replacement for Libor is Sonia – the Sterling Overnight Index Average. This is set by looking at specific overnight transactions received from banks and building societies, so it is not open to manipulation.

It could be argued that one of the most important missions that the FCA has is to restore the reputation of the City. Bright young graduates are preferring to go into tech, over the City, and its perception among the wider public is that it can go to hell in a handcart for the damage it wreaked on the rest of the economy during the financial crisis and seemingly got away with it.

One could even argue that many voted for Brexit because, in part, of revulsion at the metropolitan elite that supported – and relied upon – the EU. But the fact is that over a tenth of HM Treasury's income is derived from taxes on companies in financial services. The country needs financial services whether it likes it or not.