Hester to join commission’s public debate

STEPHEN Hester, the chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, at the weekend became the first of the UK’s biggest bank bosses to commit to playing a role in the independent banking commission’s upcoming public debates.

The debates, five of which will be held before the New Year, are designed to engage the general public in the commission’s inquiry into the future shape of the bank sector.

The first is expected to be held around the end of next month, when the commission is set to invite a diverse mix of bank bosses, regulatory figures, consumer body representatives and academics to discuss the primary issues facing the sector.

An RBS spokesman confirmed the bank is “very willing to engage in whatever way we need to”.

RBS’s commitment to the process comes after the commission, chaired by former Office of Fair Trading boss Sir John Vickers, on Friday launched its initial “issues paper”. The paper confirmed that the commission will analyse in depth ways to reform bank structure – including the separation of retail and investment banking, the introduction of wind-down requirements such as living wills and limits on proprietary trading and investment – as well as investigating the level of concentration in the UK’s retail banking market.

The commission will this week issue the main UK banks – including RBS, Lloyds, Barclays, HSBC, Standard Chartered and Spanish bank Santander, which bought Bradford & Bingley, Alliance & Leicester and Abbey during the crisis – with a questionnaire about their operations, likely to range in scope from their financial health to future strategy.

After the public phase of the consultation concludes at the end of the year, the bosses of those banks will be hauled before the commission to give evidence in private. They will face Vickers and the other four members of his team – ex-Barclays boss Martin Taylor; Claire Spottiswoode, the former head of energy regulator Ofgas; JP Morgan’s ex-co-head of investment banking Bill Winters; and FT columnist Martin Wolf.