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Banks need to stop blaming regulators and concentrate on repairing their reputation


First HSBC chairman Douglas Flint warned that regulatory reforms were exhausting staff and leaving them so “risk averse” they were frightened to much beyond selling simple deposit accounts.

Then Lloyds boss Antonio Horta-Osorio chimed in with a similar message. Now Standard Chartered’s head of Asia Jaspal Bindal is at it, whining that his bank is being treated “like a criminal”. 

During the good times, when money flooded the City like a burst Thames Water pipe, banks didn’t bother too much about what their people were doing to make it.

Indulged by politicians, who ordered watchdogs to take it easy, the result was they almost broke the world’s economy. Since then a string of ugly scandals have emerged in the backwash and the mood has changed. 

With regulators finally getting tough, the industry’s big guns appear to feel it’s time to roll back the tide of reform. Their dog whistle is aimed at politicians: In doing their jobs and cramping our style regulators risk damaging the economy.  Get them off us. Let’s party again! 

Unfortunately the world outside the glass towers of the financial sector is still suffering from a severe post crisis hangover. And it’s gone teetotal. 

Rolling back banking reforms would therefore be political suicide for anyone that tried it.

Which leaves the terrible threesome looking uncomfortably like relics from a bygone age. At a time that the industry badly needs to reform its culture, their words actually serve as an impediment to the work that needs to be done. 

Bluntly they need to shut up and concentrate on repairing the reputations of their businesses and their industry by ensuring they operate in a fair, ethical, and lawful manner. It can be done, and profitably too.