In a bid to prove they are now sober, useful members of society the nation’s banks set up an independent body to oversee their penance. The Banking Standards Board (BSB) has now kicked off an ‘audit’ of the industry – and it’s starting with a questionnaire.
It’s sending the chairmen of Britain’s seven biggest lenders questions about their culture, ethical policies and how the pay of top bosses is decided, with responses due in the autumn. The BSB will then produce its first annual report into standards in the industry early next year.
The body, set up in May 2014, is the sector’s own initiative and its 14-strong board includes representative from HSBC, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Metro Bank and Nationwide, as well as a bishop and moral philosophy professor. But cleaning up banking is starting to look a bit, well, last year.
Barclays’ axed chief executive Antony Jenkins was one of the biggest proponents of ‘ethical’ finance, but lost his job a few weeks ago when the board decided he wasn’t paying enough attention to the lucrative but tarnished investment bank.
Meanwhile, the government has toned down the banker bashing and is replacing the hated bank levy with a profits surcharge, in a bid to stop HSBC making good on its threat to move its headquarters to Hong Kong.
Bankers as a faceless, Wolf of Wall Street-esque group are still public enemies, even though people tend to trust their own lender. Meanwhile, the merry-go-round of fines and scandals hasn’t ground to a halt just yet. So banks would do well to continue the tortuous process of winning back the public’s trust. A questionnaire may not, however, do the trick.