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Business Comment

Anthony Hilton: A question of trust which banks don’t blooming get

City UK which is the promotional body for the financial services industry has a project aimed at restoring customers' trust. But progress is slow because you don't get results by standing on a soap box and saying, "Trust me I am a reformed character." You gain trust by doing the right thing, over and over again, one customer at a time. You do it, you live it, and eventually you get the credit.

Bank bosses in particular don't understand or accept that it comes from the bottom not the top so they keep failing to do the right thing. Thus in my local village the high street is transformed every summer by hanging baskets of flowers, organised by volunteers and paid for by all the local shopkeepers. For some, in current trading conditions, even £50 is a big ask. And guess who does not pay: the local branches of Lloyds and Barclays.

They spend thousands of pounds every night on television to advertise how they care about local communities and local businesses and local people. They spend a further fortune on corporate social responsibility programmes designed from on high to show how they care about down below. But they will not give their local branch manager even fifty quid and the discretion for him or her to spend it on a hanging basket or any other local charity. It's not the front line staff's fault. Some years they have been so ashamed they have paid out of their own pocket.

The Bob Diamonds of this world have stripped British banking of its human face and its sense of shared values. To be trusted, bankers have to be part of the communities they are meant to serve. Yet even now those left at top – a diminishing band admittedly – still don't get it.