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Individuals, Banking Standards & 'League Tables'

Posted on February 10, 2014 at 4:55 PM

Here comes the cavalry - just in time for the embattled UK banking sector.

Sir Richard Lambert, ex editor of the Financial Times, ex Director General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and that rare thing - a highly respected individual across sectors (who managed to get a knighthood with no one bitching which is almost unheard of....and) who would come to mind if you were asked to think #integrity and name some names...has been tasked with setting up a banking standards board to do something urgently about the City's reputation. 

Today he revealed a consultation - you have until March 7 to respond - so get to it, if you want to exercise your voice in our banking future.

Peter Vicary-Smith, CEO of WHICH, has already welcomed Sir Richard's proposals to bring about a big change of culture in British banking "so that the customer is once again put first, not bankers."

There were a few statements that jumped out at me when reading the consultation. 

"Incentives shape behaviour. In too many cases, industry norms have incentivised short-term revenue generation as oposed to the duty of care to customers. So long as this is allowed to continue, banking will fail in its efforts to raise standards of conduct." Agreed. (my emphasis for clarity)

This new organisation is "to act as a champion for good standards across the banking industry." It is to set out 'what good looks like from a customer's point of view.' AND - here's the rub - it's to "develop metrics to enable individual banks and buiding societies to benchmark their performance to others in the peer group." (my emphasis)

Unsurprisingly, this meant that the FT headline on the story read: 'Lambert Sets Out Bank Standards League Tables'.

And that's the problem. Perhaps Sir Richard did mean to offer 'league tables.' Personally, and I am guessing, I suspect that was pretty far from his thinking, although considered to be an inevitable side-effect....there is a certain amount of peer pressure in any industry, and huge amounts of it in financial services.

But I don't believe that you want to walk about saying 'LEAGUE TABLES ' in this exercise.Because then you make it immediately about winning and losing and ranking in a sense the financial services sector may think it 'gets', but which defeats the true enemy within: not the competitor/rival, but the unethical behaviour caused by the competition in the first place.

On the basis of that alone - flimsy evidence  I admit - I am dubious about the creation of anything that links an individual inextricably to an organisation.

Buying into ethics in financial services is about buying into the right of every individual to make a decision - (there is a recent blog here on 'Business and Indivdual Ethics: No Dividing Line' which articulates it a bit more)

So, at first thought anyway, I am with the CBI, which had this to say briefly in first response to theconsultation:


"With its emphasis on standards and ethics, Sir Richard’s review is an important piece of the jigsaw to help reinforce a culture change that puts the customer at the heart of everything banks do.



"Transparent reporting of performance is important so that banks don’t just sign up to these new standards, but live and breathe them.


"Good conduct and ethical behaviour should be important to future career mobility, so the transition to a professional body with individual membership is appealing."

I reckon that 'transition to a professional body with individual membership is the answer.' But this is all so new, I may well have misunderstood.

Do respond to the consultation by March 7th.

Categories: Measurement, Accountability, Ethics