Business

Viewpoints: Banking committee report

Canary Wharf, London

The long-awaited report by the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards has been published. The review was commissioned in 2012, following a number of scandals in the banking industry.

The cross-party group of MPs and peers on the committee have made a number of recommendations, including the possible imprisonment of bankers disregarding their responsibilities, deferred bonuses and a change in the male-dominated culture of the trading floor.

But what do figures close to the industry think?

Frances Coppola, independent banking commentator

Firstly, this report is immensely comprehensive, and there are a lot of very good things in it.

There is an awful lot in it about changing bank culture. One of the difficulties is that the trading floor is very male driven. In an environment with only a small number of women, they would often tend to behave like men. So redressing that balance to make it a better working environment would help to change the macho culture.

The remuneration proposals tie into some of the things that need to happen in the labour market as a whole to help economic stability; there should be more of a sense of companies growing their own and encouraging employees to stay with the same bank. It's quite disturbing that we expect people to be there short term. This encourages visible quick wins rather than looking to the far horizon.

However, I have a few concerns.

I find myself thinking that with commercial banking, there's an increasingly invasive role for regulators. We're in danger of overstepping the boundary. If something can't operate without having the government breathing down its neck, is it really a commercial activity?

I have reservations about punishing failed bankers with jail.

This sanction infers that banks are now regarded as having a 'mission critical' function that they didn't have before. The report suggests that banks need to be treated in the same way as public utilities like electricity; a key part of our infrastructure. Anything that's critical to the functioning of our economy is a public utility - let's stop the pretence that it's a commercial organisation.

Frances Coppola can be followed on Twitter @frances_coppola

Andre Spicer, Cass Business School

The report recommends increasing the number of women on the trading floor. There is a hope this will help the banks to challenge the "locker room" culture which dominates in some parts of banking.

What is certain is that increasing the number of women in trading will help to address continuing gender inequity and also improve the culture for both women and men. This may attract more women into trading roles, and help to retain women in these roles.

There are a few things hidden away in the report that are significant.

There is the suggestion that banks should be run with "safety and soundness".

It basically means that the primary purpose of a bank should be changed so not just to operate in the interest of shareholders but in a cautious and prudent way. It would be a really fundamental change if they go with that.

Another interesting point is around recommendations around whistle-blowing policies.

Although formal policies are in place, most people didn't speak up if something went wrong.

Part of the reason for this was that individual bankers were trying to protect the reputation of the organisation, and although concerns were escalated, information would often be censored.

Andre Spicer can be followed on Twitter @andre_spicer

Lord Myners, former Labour City minister

I think it's an extremely thoughtful report and the product of a great deal of hard work.

Their analysis takes them to the core of the problem, the cultural determination that followed the adoption of a culture of greed that infiltrated the banking system after the big bang.

Their recommendations are largely sensible and many can be implemented quite soon by amendments to the Banking Act.

Other proposals, such as an investigation into competition issues, will take longer.

I'm sure the report will receive broad public support, including from Labour.

We shouldn't lose sight of the criticism in the report of the government, particularly for interfering with RBS and not giving the regulators freedom to set leverage limits.

Iain Anderson, financial lobbying organisation Cicero

The report is a huge piece of work. The Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards has looked at banking from every angle, from retail to wholesale, and now the big challenge is exactly what the government will look to implement.

They can't possibly take forward all of the recommendations; there just isn't parliamentary time.

The big question now is how much the coalition government will want to implement and what measures the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will want to keep for their own manifestos.

On the pay recommendations in this report, they're looking at taking retrospective action on people's pay.

That has in the past proved difficult to do legally, because you're looking at ripping up contract law.

The recommendations are substantial.

Whether they're do-able is now the question.

Iain Anderson can be followed on Twitter @iain_w_anderson

Richard Lloyd, Which?

We think that this report is strong on the punishment of bankers and clear on the accountability that lies with senior bankers.

However, it's weak on the prevention of scandal and suggests that the industry writes the rules to regulate itself.

We want the Treasury to go further and implement a code of conduct that hasn't been created for the bankers, by the bankers.

For a long time, we've said that moving bank accounts needs to be easier, so we're pleased that the report suggests a study on this.

However, the biggest banks are likely to resist any change as they have the most to lose.

The Treasury needs to get on with that straight away.

There also needs to be genuine competition between the banks and a distinctive offer for customers.

Richard Lloyd can be followed on Twitter @richardjlloyd