Tuesday 10 February 2009

What you missed if you watched the bank chiefs

While Peston and co were hunting as a pack - sinking their teeth into bank-chief meat - it went unnoticed that a key figure in British banking was speaking elsewhere in Westminster Palace.

Lobbydog went to the Thatcher Room to see the bank chiefs, but after an hour slipped out and strolled across the the estate to the unexceptional, almost empty Room 2A.

Inside Angela Knight (above), chair of the British Bankers' Association (BBA) of which almost all our banks are members, was talking to a Lords Sub-Committee on finance.

The bank-chiefs had earlier apologised for recent chaos (I’ll post on it later) but said risk procedure had been carried out and, basically, no-one could have seen problems coming.

But after being asked about increased regulation, Ms Knight, a former Erewash MP, said…

“Don’t forget that there are an awful lot of banks not just in the UK but in the world. Some banks have got into difficulty, many have not.

We need to be careful before we start to say ‘do we need X or Y to make the banks behave properly?’ We need to accept that an awful lot are doing pretty well.”

So if RBS and HBOS had robust risk procedures which were properly carried out like everyone else, why weren’t they among the “many” that didn’t get into difficulty?

The bank chiefs argued their teams had the skills to run things properly. HBOS chief executive Andy Hornby (left) said his lack of banking experience didn’t matter.

Likewise HBOS chair Lord Stevenson (below) said it didn’t matter that Charles Dunstone, HBOS’ Risk Committee chair, came from a retail background and not a banking one.

But Ms Knight said: “In such aspects as risk control, in such aspects as who occupies what position, how the reporting line operates as well as the kind of corporate Governance needed – that is where the attention should be paid.”

I suspect that despite the grandstanding and big-speeches going on in the Thatcher Room we won’t get such clear answers as we did in Room 2A.

1 comment:

subrosa said...

Very interesting post LD. I hope many read it. Contradicting speeches in the same building too.

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