New BBA chief told to find moral compass

Anthony Browne, the new head of the British Bankers' Association, faces calls to make banks more accountable.

by Elizabeth Anderson
Last Updated: 11 Sep 2012

With UK banks suffering a crisis in reputation, the new head of the banking sector’s leading trade body, unsurprisingly, steps into the helm facing calls to raise standards.

Anthony Browne, who today becomes the new chief executive of the BBA, replacing Angela Knight, must drive up standards and put customers first ‘to transform a sector that has lost its moral compass,’ a leading consumer group has demanded.

Which? chief exec Peter Vicary-Smith said Browne must take the opportunity to lead by example and work with the banks to ‘take real action to reform their practices’.

British Banks’ reputation among consumers has plummeted this year after a string of consecutive mishaps. A series of IT glitches at RBS and Natwest in June left millions of people unable to access their bank accounts. Then the pressure was heaped on Barclays after it was revealed that the bank had been rigging the libor (the bank’s inter-lending interest rate) for years. A £290m penalty and the departure of both the chairman Marcus Agius and CEO Bod Diamond swiftly followed. Accusations of money laundering dogged Standard Chartered; and of course the PPI mis-selling fiasco rumbles on.

‘Banks have got a rock-bottom reputation; understandably so,’ RBS chairman Philip Hampton tells MT in this month’s edition of the magazine. ‘Banks do need to change their attitudes… In banking, it's how we can get a bigger share of our customers' wallets. The customer is an opportunity rather than someone to satisfy.’

Anthony Browne was previously the head of government relations for investment bank Morgan Stanley’s Europe, Middle East and Africa division. And he has plenty of experience of lobbying, having been a journalist and an adviser to London Mayor Boris Johnson. He’s also on the board of TheCityUK, a group which lobbies for the UK financial services industry.

The problem that he, the BBA and indeed all such membership trade bodies face is, how hard can he afford to bite the hand that feeds?

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