Over the past 12 months, LQ and Meteos, a fellow non-profit which undertakes cross-sector multi-stakeholder dialogues, have partnered as co-directors of the Banking Futures initiative.
Today we're pleased to be launching a public consultation document - inviting other bank leaders and stakeholders to join us in shaping a healthy future for UK banking. Below is the document's introduction written by Sophia Tickell of Meteos and LQ's Anne Wade. Immediately following that is the Request for Engagement statement from the BankingFutures Working Group. Both are drawn from the full document which can be found here. Please join the conversation by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your comments and ideas will be reviewed as part of the consultation.
Leaders’ Quest and Meteos introduction
The UK banking sector is undergoing a process of profound reform, driven by a desire to ensure that the British taxpayer is never again called on to provide emergency scaffolding for a collapsing financial system.
The social consensus in support of bank reform offers an opportunity to de-risk the banks and to address serious and egregious misconduct. And it goes further. The appetite for reform also provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to provoke a systemic rethink about what we need and want from our banking sector.
BankingFutures is designed to grasp that opportunity. It is co-convened by two not-for-profit entities, Leaders’ Quest and Meteos, seeking to bring to bear their skills and experience to facilitate a holistic, systemic and balanced dialogue on how to rebuild a healthy UK banking sector.
We are doing this because of the vital importance of the banking sector to the real economy. Eight years on from the financial crisis, the UK economy remains weak. Despite a return to growth, gradual increases in earnings, rising employment levels and household consumption, vast challenges remain. Productivity remains perplexingly low; earnings rises are not flowing through to the under-30s; and inequality in Britain is the worst in Europe. A healthy banking sector is critical to address these economic challenges, while simultaneously supporting government commitment to a number of other important initiatives, including protection of society’s most vulnerable members and de-carbonising the economy.
Defining this healthy banking sector is a collective responsibility. At present, plans for reform are well-rehearsed by regulators, by banks and in the financial media. To address the systemic causes of the crisis, however, requires more.
Despite the huge responsibility of the banks, they were not alone in causing the crisis. Investors, regulators, policy-makers and customers all played a role. A systemic solution to the banking crisis needs to address the roles of these others, as well as the bankers. Second, there are communities and issues that remain underserved and under-represented in current debates. It is important that reformers take steps to encourage their active representation.
Finally, although the scale of the crisis and the depth of its economic consequences have had the effect of de-legitimising bankers from contributing to its solution, it is important to recognise that reform is as much a cultural challenge as a regulatory one. Cultural change cannot be imposed from the outside – it needs the buy-in of all stakeholders. This includes the leadership of banks now and in future. Yet, while the sector is feeling so besieged there is little incentive for thoughtful, principled leaders to lift their heads above the parapet to engage in this debate. The absence of the perspective of experienced bankers in attempts to restore a safe and stable financial system could have unintended and potentially damaging consequences for the design of policy and regulation, and – in the long-run – for the wider economy. The consequences of this would be a disservice to the society the system is there to serve.
This impasse must therefore be broken. There are risks involved in the engagement, but any reputational concerns should pale into insignificance in the face of the greater risk of presiding over a restructured system that is not fit for purpose. Reform that does not draw on the expertise of progressive, experienced bank executives is unlikely to be any more durable than a solution that does not understand the needs of vulnerable customers or which fails to tackle long-term challenges such as climate change.
To catalyse debate about a healthy UK banking sector, Leaders’ Quest and Meteos have convened the BankingFutures Group of senior bankers, investors and sector experts. The Group is a self-selecting group of forward-thinking individuals committed to contributing to positive reform and willing to engage with critics and stakeholders of the sector. They participate in a personal capacity.
Over a period of 12 months, the Group has met to develop this document, which is designed to kick-start a process of public consultation. As a diverse group, its views were not always aligned. It did not, for example achieve consensus on how to approach executive compensation. Despite this, the document is the product of the sort of collaboration, healthy debate and mutual respect that we will seek to repeat in upcoming stakeholder roundtables.
The BankingFutures consultation document is structured as follows:
- Section One: The Background to BankingFutures: The Financial Crisis and its Regulatory Consequences
- Section Two: The Fundamentals – Value Generation and Distribution, and Risk Profile
- Section Three: A Healthy Banking Sector in the UK
- Section Four: Kick-Starting the Debate: Areas of Contention
- Section Five: The Transition: Progress Milestones
The consultation document is an invitation. It will be the subject of a number of roundtables held for and in partnership with bank stakeholders from June to October 2015. Having tested its ideas and assumptions, the BankingFutures Group will respond by producing a revised version of the document and incorporating lessons they have learnt into their work practices. Our intention is to produce the final version before the end of 2015.
Sophia Tickell and Anne Wade