AN AWKWARD MOMENT AS BANK CHIEFS RETURN TO PARLIAMENT

 
Elizabeth Fournier
BRITAIN’S bank chiefs were lucky enough to be called before another parliamentary committee today, following several outings already this year. Seated in the stuffy House of Lords hearing room, banking maestros were put through their paces on topics ranging from capital buffers to some “curious nexuses” that HSBC chair Douglas Flint wanted to discuss.

Is the retail banking market competitive, asked Lloyds chair Sir Win Bischoff, referring to the Vickers Commission’s assessment that Lloyds has far too big a market share. “We think the most imp thing is contestability,” Sir Win responded gruffly. “Can new competitors come in to the market? The chief executive on my left has proved this can be done.”

A nice nod to the exec in question, Santander UK chief Ana Botín, you might think. Except when Santander UK made its grand entry into the market – in part by snapping up over 300 RBS branches – Botín was not in charge. The chief exec in question was in fact, António Horta Osório – poached last year to be chief of Lloyds.

Surely that wasn’t a sly smile we saw on Botín’s face as Sir Win was pressed further about that troublesome branch sale?

WEEKEND RETREAT
NO doubt inspired by the attention paid to the recent Occupy Wall Street movement in the US, a group of UK protestors have announced plans to convene close to Paternoster Square, home to the London Stock Exchange.

OccupyLSX plans to hold assemblies, workshops and discussions over the weekend to “challenge the power held by the financial sector”.

Organisers will no doubt be hoping the 3,500 who’ve said they are “attending” on Facebook are willing to stick around as long as their US counterparts. With the City a notorious ghost-town over the weekend, it’ll be at least 48 hours before anyone other than tourists and pigeons feel disrupted. ­