Belfast Telegraph

Ex-CBI boss to lead new banks body

Britain's biggest banks have appointed former CBI business lobby group boss Sir Richard Lambert to set up and lead a new independent body to raise standards in the industry.

The move comes in the wake of recommendations by the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards and marks an attempt by the banking sector to repair its tarnished image following a series of scandals, including Libor rate rigging and mis-selling of payment protection insurance.

In a joint statement, the chairmen of Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Royal Bank of Scotland, Santander and Standard Chartered said Sir Richard would design and head up the new body for banking standards, stressing it will be run independently and not lobby on their behalf.

The new body is charged with "setting and promoting high standards of competence and ethics", they added.

Sir Richard - also formerly editor of the Financial Times and an ex-member of the Bank of England's rate-setting Monetary Policy Committee - will initially consult on the remit of the new body, canvassing opinions from government, regulators, academia, industry, existing providers of qualifications and training, employees and consumer organisations.

He will look at the need for standardised skills and qualifications across the industry and how best to raise professional standards, liaising closely with the Financial Conduct Authority.

Sir Richard has been asked to report back with recommendations for the new body in the new year.

He said: "The new professional body will be independent of the banks, and will cover all sectors of the industry.

"I hope it will be supported by all banks and building societies doing business in the UK."

John Cridland, current director-general of the CBI, welcomed Sir Richard's appointment.

He said: "Restoring trust in our banking system is absolutely fundamental to the future of the UK economy and I can think of few people better qualified to do this than Richard.

"His breadth of experience and fearless independence are exactly the attributes needed to address the cultural and professional challenges which parts of the banking sector face."

Sir Richard insisted it was possible to come up with a "rigorous and clear and open" process for recruiting the new body that would " demonstrate that this outfit is not going to be a bunch of patsies".

The former journalist said he would learn from the lessons of the discredited Press Complaints Commission, which was "a perfect model in how not to do it".

"This thing will have to be independent enough to make waves," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme, insisting his role was not to act as " an advocate for the banks".

He said it would take many years to repair the public reputation of the banking sector, which had been given an "almighty black eye" and made its customers think "we want to throttle the lot of you".

"Banks have to do a job - and it will take a long time, this is not a two-year job. Someone said to me yesterday 'You're like Moses, you'll never see the promised land' - but the banks know, and I admire them for it, they have got to recapture the trust," he said.

The new body would "work with the banks and with their customers and with the public at large to raise the standards of competence and behaviours in the banking system".

"It will be helping, I hope, banks to raise their sights, have benchmarks for performance and behaviours that will reassure their customers."

Mr Lambert said his role was at the level of relations with customers, not the wider stability of the system, pointing out that the Financial Conduct Authority will soon lay out "root and branch" reforms to regulation.

But asked if he believed the system was now stable, he said: "The banking system is still bruised. If you look at RBS, it is quite a long way from the promised land.

"The banking system is much stronger than it was, thank God, five years ago."

"Obviously, things have gone wonky in the last years. This is a small part of the process of trying to rebalance the thing and it is going to take years."