The Chancellor, Alistair Darling, meets some of the world's leading bankers for talks over breakfast today, as splits among the world's regulators over President Barack Obama's financial reform plan widen.
Bob Diamond, the president of Barclays, Stephen Green, chief executive of HSBC, Peter Sands, his counterpart at Standard Chartered, and senior executives from Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley,and Citigroup will meet Mr Darling privately.
The Chancellor may be expected to listen to the banks' concerns over issues such as the Treasury's levy on bankers' bonuses, the Obama reform package and the competitive position of the City of London. Mr Darling, in turn, will reiterate his concern that the White House proposes to "go it alone" on breaking up the banks and ending the "too big to fail" problem.
Mr Darling voiced his misgivings about the US approach in an interview with Reuters. Mr Darling said: "I have always thought to separate banks doesn't deal with the full problem... It is the connections between institutions that cause problems, not the legal entity. The large bank/small bank division – experience shows – does not answer the question either of Lehmans. Everything we do has to be a global solution otherwise we will get arbitrage... The Americans want radical reform, I want radical reform."
To that extent, Mr Darling finds himself in an unlikely alliance with the likes of Mr Diamond and other bankers who have used Davos to criticise the Obama plan and called for G20-framed co-ordinated international rules. By contrast, the Conservatives have pledged to implement the Obama plan in the UK.
Mr Obama has been gathering some powerful allies. The president of the European Central Bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, said that he welcomed banking reform packages "on both sides of the Atlantic", having earlier said that Mr Obama's proposals "go in the same direction of our own position, namely ensuring that the banking sector focuses on financing the real economy". Mr Trichet also called on the banks to restrict bonus payments and dividends so that they can build up their balance sheets and "support the real economy".
President Obama's plans were designed by the former Fed chairman Paul Volcker, whose attitude to "too big to fail" has been praised by the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, one of the first figures to float an Obama-style restructuring to take proprietary trading out of mainstream banking.Reuse content