Do Lloyds and HSBC banking chiefs get it yet?


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The Independent Online

Outlook Given Standard Chartered’s troubles with watchdogs, its chief executive wasn’t about to steam in alongside HSBC’s chairman, Douglas Flint, over regulators being mean to banks.

No matter, because Antonio Horta-Osorio has stepped into the breach on Sky News. Mr Horta-Osorio fretted that some of the reforms planned by watchdogs could “incentivise people to do nothing”. Like Mr Flint, he fears bankers will avoid taking risks for fear of the consequences should something go wrong.

Both men say they are concerned about the impact of bankers avoiding taking any responsibly for anything, and limiting what they do to selling the odd ultra low-risk deposit account to customers.

It should be remembered, here, that Lloyds only recently ditched a target-based remuneration scheme for sales staff that led one hapless employee to mis-sell life insurance policies that he couldn’t afford to himself. He was far more fearful of his bosses than of the watchdogs. Lloyds traders also tried to cheat the Bank of England out of fees for participating in a scheme that kept it trading. As we all know, HSBC was fined nearly $2bn for acting as a conduit for Mexican drug money. They may both have been in the thick of more wrongdoing if their risk warnings are anything to go by.

It is hard not to ask whether either of these two men get it yet. It’s not risk-averse bankers doing nothing because of a big bad regulator we should be concerned about.