Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Banking practices ‘crazy’ says Kroes

Banks and bankers have been slammed as out of touch by Europe's fair competition chief.

EU commissioner Neelie Kroes said bankers too often thought they were smarter than everyone else and could play by different rules. But it was time the banking industry respected its customers and stopped believing it was better than them.

In a hard-hitting speech to pension fund managers in Amsterdam, Mrs Kroes said investors as well as banks had been too greedy in the run-up to the meltdown.

Mrs Kroes, who described herself as the “referee” between investors and the banking sector during the economic crisis, condemned “crazy” banking practices and the “appalling” risks banks took.

She said: “It should not take Albert Einstein to see that problems might emerge in banks with a loan-to-deposit ratio of 180% — as part of the Lloyds Banking Group had.

“The Royal Bank of Scotland tripled its balance sheet in just two years from 2006....it was simply too big to operate and supervise.”

She said the culture of many executives towards market rules was changing but “maybe not in banking”, and regulators had to show they could control the banks.

“Part of that means promoting culture change in banks. The smartest regulation in the world can't make up for bad or reckless judgment.”

The EU competition commissioner went on: “If a banker can't exercise good judgment and diligence, then the taxpayer is still left with the same bill, and that isn't good enough”.