Wednesday, 21 May 2014

The Hideous Cost Of Banking 'Standards'

I'm a great fan of trade bodies that introduce necessary self-regulation and create an efficient bridge between industry and officials. But news that UK banks will add to their enormous lobbying efforts by spending an extra £7-10m on a new "Banking Standards Review Board" definitely strikes me as overkill. 

I mean, what's the British Bankers' Association for, if not to ensure decent industry standards? Does the need for a new 'standards' board mean that the BBA has failed? If so, shouldn't it be dismantled? What about the Lending Standards Board? It's role is "to monitor and enforce the Lending Code and to ensure subscribers provide a fair deal to their personal and micro-enterprise borrowing customers." Surely it failed in that aim long ago?  Or is it that such bodies are really just lobbying outfits that merely pay lip service to effective self-regulation? In 2011 alone, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that the City spent £92m on lobbying regulators and politicians, which it described as an "economic war of attrition." Even the Confederation of British Industry has been captured by the banks.

Lord knows how much it really costs to run these lobbying outfits and face savers. But you can bet that customers and/or taxpayers end up paying for them in the end - not to mention the 2000 extra staff that the Financial Ombudsman Service has had to hire since 2012 to deal with the million complaints about payment protection insurance, or the endless Parliamentary time, or the £20bn in PPI compensation that the banks must fund. In fact, the London School of Economics found that poor conduct among the world's top 10 banks, including 5 UK outfits, had cost nearly £150bn by the end of 2012, and there have been vast fines and compensation payments since. 

Isn't it time for the banks to stop talking their way through everyone's money and just get on with the job of supplying decent financial services?

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