Banks risk a visit from the ghosts of the past

Tracey Boles
Markets Revive As US, Europeans Shore Up Banks
Banks still need to reform to avoid future re-runs of the financial crisis (Source: Getty)

In the wake of the financial crisis, the public wanted to see banking bosses held to account and a regulatory system introduced which would ensure the banks' near collapse could not happen again.

As part of this overhaul, banks have had to bolster their capital buffers and undergo stress tests.

Last Friday, the European Banking Authority published the outcome of its health check of 51 lenders from across the EU.

It gave the industry a broadly healthy prognosis, with banks having come a long way since 2014 in building up their buffers.

Read more: This bank feels fine about the Brexit vote so far

The results will be used by regulators to determine overall capital requirements by year end. But with banks' profitability a key concern, the test's omission of looming risks such as the effect of negative interest rates and Brexit have undermined the results in the eyes of some analysts.

They say the tests are just one step in the right direction, and not the be all and end all.

Another challenge for banks, according to Moody's Analytics, will be to demonstrate that the quality of their data and models is good enough to reliably identify future risks and that they have robust processes in place to manage these risks.

Yesterday that ability to manage risk was called into question by an unlikely source: London's biggest ever rogue trader.

Former UBS employee Kweku Adoboli, who cost his bank £1.4bn, believes that behaviour in the investment banking industry had not changed since his conviction for fraud in 2012.

Traders are under the same pressure to achieve and make money “no matter what”, he says. The risk taking that can lead to great rewards – or failure – remains, in his view, engrained.

Read more: The state of Europe's banks is far from steady

As Shore Capital rightly says, at some point you have to say that the problems in the sector are not due to the crisis anymore but point to a need to address issues that have been neglected by management.

Bank of England governor Mark Carney wants us to show bankers more love, given their contribution to the economy.

For the wider public to reach that point, the banking community will have to demonstrate substantial reforms to their risk management systems and culture.

Otherwise the ghosts of the past are bound to revisit, whether in the form of a new rogue trader or even a fresh crisis.

Related articles