Culture, ethics and regulation were the hot topics as a panel of financial experts debated possible changes that could 'fix' the UK's banks at a conference held at London South Bank University last night
'Fixing our banks: what to fix and by whom?' Explored the main issues that need to be 'fixed' within the banks - such as culture, ethics, integrity, risk management, capital, liquidity, regulation - and whether these issues have changed since the beginning of the crisis with the banks.
The evening was introduced by Dr Carolina Valiente of the Accounting and Finance department in the Faculty of Business and Bev Jullien, Pro Vice Chancellor (External). The event was then chaired by Chris Skinner, Chair of the European Networking Forum and Director of the Financial Services Club and was attended by students, alumni, academics and guests with interest and backgrounds in business and finance.
Unsurprisingly, the banking bonus culture was discussed at length. A bank's perspective was offered by Charles Middleton, Managing Director of Triodos Bank, who said that bonuses "must have some relevance to society, not exist in some parallel universe."
He went on to quote a survey that had indicated 9million customers wouldn't recommend their bank to others, with a large percentage blaming this on the banking bonuses culture. A further brand Republic report found that very few consumers wish to deal with banks that they deem to be 'unethical'.
He was followed on the panel by Seamus Gillen, Policy Director at the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA), who raised issues involving a bank's board of directors and shareholders. He predicted that there could be a banking standards council in the future, which would mean that "CEO's like 'Fred the Shred' would be booted out if they failed to meet values and standards.'
James Daley, Editor of Which? Money magazine and Dominic Hook, National Officer for Unite the Union made a number of points about the pressure on banking staff to sell financial products to consumers, to the point that they are performance managed for not meeting these sales targets.
Finally LSBU's Professor Andrew Chambers made thought provoking comments about the internal auditors within banks and their role within the governance structure. "He who pays the piper calls the tune; if an Internal Audit team reports to the CEO instead of the Chair of the Board, could [their findings] be manipulated?"
The conference coincided with surplus and profit announcements made by HSBC in the media earlier the same day and this set the theme for discussions around the venue and questions to the panel.
You can also follow the Twitter hashtag #fixingourbanks for tweets from the conference.