Bank CEOs hit back at ethics accusations

BANK chiefs clashed with a committee of MPs and peers yesterday to defend the industry from what they called unfounded “generalisations”.

Responding to an accusation from the Conservative peer Lord Maples that the crisis had involved “a failure of ethics… particularly within investment banking”, Barclays chief Bob Diamond said that the query was rife with “many generalisations”.

“I certainly bristle when I hear people refer to what we do for our customers as casino banking without the courtesy to come in and watch our operations and show me where the casino is,” he said.

“I think there’s a lot of generalisations picked out of specific firms and applied to the industry and I don’t think that’s necessarily helpful.”

He was joined in his defence by rival bank chiefs, HSBC’s Stuart Gulliver and RBS’s Stephen Hester.

“What you’re talking about doesn’t apply to the banks we’re running,” said Gulliver. “We’re not condoning it in any way, shape or form. We’re just saying it doesn’t happen in our banks.”

The committee, examining the government’s draft financial services bill, also asked what banks make of new capital rules. In a veiled swipe at the UK’s attempt to gold-plate the regulations, Diamond emphasised the need to achieve “a balance so that no country is super-equivalent...If [our rivals are] on a different measure of capital than us, it will create inefficiencies.”