Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Bad Banks

I have just read a book called Bad Banks written by Alex Brummer, a journalist from the United Kingdom. He describes the shenanigans in US and UK banks since the Global Financial Crisis. The subtitle is Incompetence and the Next Global Crisis. It is a disturbing book. He warns that the problems that caused the crisis have not been resolved and that banks have continued the same bad behaviour since, despite needing to be rescued.

He quotes Marin Taylor, who sits on the Bank of England Financial policy Committee, who says,

You cannot tell people to operate to professional stands on Monday and then, on Tuesday, give them the kind of sales targets that requires them not to operate to such standards.
The message of the book is summed up in the last couple of paragraphs.
The archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who spent 11 years as an oil executive and sat on the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, reflected on the financial system from the pulpit of St Paul’s in the summer of 2013: “The biggest weakness of all in the analysis of the failure of banks to be good banks has been round understanding about human beings”, he said, adding that “at the heart of good banks have to be good people”.

Welby had listened to months of testimony from the bankers responsible for Libor rigging, the wrongful selling of PPI, and the collapse of HBOS. He had heard nothing to convince him that the bankers were contrite, that the institutions they served had truly changed their nature, or that there had been a revolution in banking practice. On that much there still seems to be widespread agreement among moral leaders, politicians, regulators, investors and the more thoughtful bankers. That there is still so much unfinished business, after the trauma of the worst financial crisis for a century, must be an enormous cause for concern. The era of bad banks is a long way from being fixed.

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