Banking ethics body wins over sceptics

Tim Wallace
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Dame Colette Bowe is spearheading the initiative to convincingly improve banking
THE NEW banking ethics group de­signed to improve behaviour in the City has won over some of its critics, and recruited a heavyweight advisory panel of top industry leaders.

Investment banks had initially expressed reservations about joining the group, but today Citi, Morgan Stanley and HSBC all joined the Banking Standards Body’s board.

Their enthusiasm is catching, with other investment banks increasingly keen on signing up.

The board, headed by Dame Colette Bowe, has not yet formally asked any banks to sign up.

But after unveiling the board today, she is now going to embark on a charm offensive in a bid to make sure a large proportion of banks sign up simultaneously, giving the initiative a major boost.

City A.M. understands that a few of the big international banks are still holding back, in part because they are involved in similar initiatives in their home countries and do not want to run into any difficulty with overlapping responsibilities in the UK.

Bowe will have to convince them that joining the Banking Standards Board in the UK will not impose any onerous legal conditions or obligations if she wants them to get involved, too.

“The new Banking Standards Board is made up of expert and committed people, a cross section of civil society and professional expertise, all determined to shine a spotlight on competence, culture and patterns of behaviour across the whole banking industry,” Bowe said.

“Through concerted, collective action, the board will support and encourage sustained change for banks operating in all areas of the market – retail, investment and commercial. That change will be equally relevant to incumbents and challengers, to banks and building societies.”

The practitioners on the board are Citi’s UK boss James Bardrick; Morgan Stanley International’s chief operating officer Clare Woodman; HSBC’s UK boss Antonio Simoes; Nationwide’s group director Alison Robb; and Metro Bank’s chief executive Craig Donaldson.

Bowe has also recruited a range of other big names to furnish the board with figures from outside banking.

They include Lord John McFall, who sat on the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards; former Trades Union Congress boss Brendan Barber; Citizens’ Advice chief Gillian Guy; Institute for Fiscal Studies head Paul Johnson; Baroness Onora O’Neill who chairs the Equalities and Human Rights Commission; Lady Susan Rice from the Chartered Banker’s Professional Standards Board; David Urquhart, the Bishop of Birmingham; and the Banking Standards Board’s chief executive designate Alison Cottrell.