The banking sector is still rewarding poor conduct

Senator Elizabeth Warren tore into Federal Reserve officials this week for not jailing a single banking executive in relation to their role in the collapse of the banking system. Senator Warren is making sure that US society, government and the banking sector does not forget that instead of punishing those who caused and oversaw the collapse, we are rewarding them.

The four biggest financial institutions [in the US] are 40% bigger than they were five years ago and the five biggest banking institutions have more than half of all the banking assets in the US, Warren told Bloomberg in this video. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon received a hefty bonus after negotiating a settlement with the feds over his bank’s involvement in the mortgage crisis, the Washington Times reported.

No deterrents

There are no deterrents for poor conduct in banking. You can break the whole system, make a tidy profit for yourself and stay employed. Bankers have got it made; governments gave them the keys to the coffers. Bankers are thought to be arrogant, but is that any wonder when you are in a position of great power and impunity?

I left the UK for Asia a few months after Lehman’s collapsed and I am getting back in touch with the banking world in the UK for the first time in five years. Although some of the edges have been worn off, the swaggering arrogance of banking executives is still apparent.

“Banker bashing must stop now,” one offshore banker determined to push the merits of his financial centre to Russian and Chinese clientèle told a packed conference hall. The people who raised the alarm on the extent of the financial crisis are dubbed ideologists who want simple solutions to complex problems by another British business leader. Their comments encapsulated the struggle that banking will face when trying to change its motivation from money to doing the right thing.

Professional standards

Not all in the banking world have the same attitude. Creating professional standards for bankers and playing up the benefits of doing well by doing good are the new battle cries of the financial services sector in the UK.. Although real changes are afoot, it will take half a generation or around 15 years according to representative from one institution, before we see the benefits of compliance universities and courses on ethics for bankers. We could wonder why it will take so long if we know where we need to go, but when you hear hardcore investment bankers talking about compliance and ethics as intrinsic to restoring confidence in the financial sector, you can’t help but think that enormous fines for criminal and regulatory failures have hit the spot.

Many banking insiders do not want change; they are happy with their set up. And that may be why it will take 15 years to see changes in the industry. Meanwhile, new payment products and services, crypto-currencies and other innovations will keep moving forward and gaining more ground, more users, more market share.


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