How can trust in the banking sector be won back? Four experts explain

 
James Nickerson
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Horta-Osório said a succession of revelations about past practices undermined customer trust (Source: Getty)

Has trust been restored in banks since the financial crisis? No, said a panel of experts at today's Institute of Directors annual convention - and that's reflected in an "unprecedented change in regulation", which is "partly a response to the actions of institutions" before and since the crisis hit, Lloyds chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio admitted.

Read more: Greater personal accountability at all levels will rebuild trust in banking

And while bank loans remain a huge source of capital for most businesses to raise money, faith in the banking industry is low. Horta-Osorio and three experts discuss how to rehabilitate the industry's image

The banker

To consider the future, we need to be aware of the past, suggested Horta-Osorio - and a succession of revelations about past practices undermined customer trust, which is vital to banks' function in the economy.

So the banking industry needs to accept regulatory changes and support ring-fencing - which is also "a better solution than larger capital ratio requirements, affecting the flow of investment into the economy".

Ultimately, though, trust will be built by putting customers first. "Companies need to have a purpose and not do everything for everyone. At Lloyds we concentrated scarce resources in the UK as we thought it was where Lloyds would be most successful and because I felt we had a debt to the UK public."

The PR man

Ed Williams, chief executive of PR giant Edelman UK, believes the banking industry needs to organise itself better, representing the sector as a whole. "Get out there and sell yourself", he advised banks.

To do this banks need to prioritise communicating their purpose and the role they play in society. "The public feel scandal is never far away" and the sector needs to have a counterargument.

"Banks do a a lot of positive work with communities and small businesses, but they have not come together as an organised group to create a positive imagine and engage with society."

At the minimum banks need to build trust directly with customers.

The disruptor

Luke Lang, co-founder of crowdfunding platform Crowdcube, thinks banks need to seize the opportunity technology can provide.

The sector needs to "embrace competition and work with organisations such as Crowdcube".

The alternative? "A lost decade of disillusionment with banks could turn to a lost generation."

The City grandee

Former Schroders group managing director Philip Augar said the industry "essentially spoiled itself. What concerns me is that when pressure comes, bad behaviour is encouraged".

Banks throughout history have found it hard to stick to their principles when pressure is applied, he said. So, "the challenge is to put into practice sticking to such principles even when times are tough and pressure comes, whether that be private equity, shareholders, or elsewhere".

As well as this, banks need to demonstrate the fair and transparent delivery of product.

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