Friday 29 June 2012

Which Bank is next?

In 2012 we have had Goldman Sachs with the Greg Smith Affair, RBS and the Steven Hester bonus saga. Now Barclays. I am at a loss of words whilst I am reading about Bob Diamond and the mess that Barclays have got themselves into in rigging market interest rates. The PR of the bank is lacking so much social awareness and totally out of tune with the mood of the general public whose patience is being pushed to the limit. For the CEO to say ‘I will not resign’ and blames a number of staff. Mr Diamond, permit me, you are the CEO. The buck stops where you are.  If he had any honour left of course he has to resign. In my view the entire board needs to resign and let us start the radical shake up in the banking sector that we keep on talking about.

After four years since the financial crisis in 2008 and after all that has happened with the bail out of banks at the tax payers’ expense and the consequential wider public suffering from the on-going current debt crisis; why have we not learnt our lessons? There are so many questions that we should be asking ourselves amongst these large and powerful organisations in the financial services sector. Let me think of some. Are banks there to serve their own needs and that of each of their own individual employees or the needs of their customers? How is their selection process when it comes to their recruitment intake in so far as their employees behave in such a way? Who is accountable when their very own CEO says he is not to blame but a small number of employees?  For a CEO to shift the blame is in itself a reflection of very weak leadership and of a weak organisation.

A re-examination of our very own values and moral conduct when we do business must be looked at and where action needs to be taken. A change in culture and mentality is the only way to re-instil our integrity and honour which are commodities that appear to be now rarer than ever. Of course this is very difficult. I know from my own past experience that where money is involved it is very hard to change. Let us see where we can make a radical shake up and provide some ideas on the practical side. Regulation as we can see does not seem to be working as persons with sub-par conduct in their characters will always find a way to flaunt it not to mention the extra cumbersome costs it fuels. No something more far reaching.

  1. A radical review of bankers remuneration policy which ought to reflect more the current economic times and also more aligned to other sectors. This has to start at the top.
  2. Ending the type of bonus culture that links employee conduct to short term gain. Moreover looking at eliminating profit sharing or fee earning amongst employee, senior and or partner pay.
  3. A radical look at financial products which are linked to positions that encourage such conduct and behaviour.
  4. A radical look at positions that allow persons to conduct themselves in such a way.
  5. True character assessments in Banking recruitment intake. Annual re-assessments of employee work force to the very top. No room for sub-par behaviour privately and professionally as this is a reflection of the true nature of the person.
  6. Or to sincerely follow up on the suggestion of the breakup of the banks and a return to a traditional service provider for the long term needs of their customers. After all the banks are service providers in simply safeguarding the assets of their customers. I am going to go so far as to question the principle of lending and whether banks should be encouraged to lend. Lending is simply fuels debt which puts individuals, organisations and countries at their mercy and into a spiral not to mention the increased duress it causes (as what we are witnessing with the Euro crisis)
  7. Criminal prosecution to those who break the rules and are seen in manipulating the market for their own needs.

Why am I writing this? The answer is very simple. A radical shake up means that many jobs are going to go in the short term but that is better than the whole system collapsing in its current form. The system requires filtering. The apples which are rotten in the core need to go. In the long term jobs and growth will benefit. Short termism, and this obsession for profits for personal gain, speculative greed, selling of misguided products in the financial service sector is evil and it has to stop. The ‘quick buck’ mentality is simply foolish and is a reflection of human fear and finally making a gain from someone else’s misfortune is neither contributing nor adding value to anything at all. This entire culture has to stop. It is greed, it is intoxicating, and it is simply wrong. This has been proven over the last lost decade. The public know it and they have had enough. The change has to start from the top. An example has to be set from the top.

All this can bring in negative publicity as with this current Barclays debacle. The consequences and damage can be enormous. All hell can break lose. Confidence, synergy and trust evaporate. Many more jobs will disappear. Many good people will suffer. Many good bankers will suffer and endure a bad name because of the sheer foolishness and lack of integrity of others. Good people who worked very hard with their entire life can suffer simply because we have not changed or bothered to make that change in our culture. Most bright and intelligent people with honest aspirations to do well who feel they are really contributing and providing a service will feel totally let down. 

It really is time for real change before I am sure more banks will follow in jumping on the negative publicity band wagon and entering into an intractable mess.

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