Good bank, bad bank - what does that even mean?

Wasn't greed supposed to be "good"?

Simon Walker, the directors director, has criticised Barclays and RBS for paying their staff too much in both wages and bonuses. According to Mr Walker, who is director general of the Institute of Directors, this has caused a crisis of public confidence in capitalism.

In a candid speech about the behaviour and culture at big banks Walker said that “the proverbial turd cannot always be polished”, that the only way banks are going to look better in the eyes of the public is if they actually change instead of just pretending to.

The cause for Walker’s plea to the banks to change is the EU’s new cap on bonuses. He called it “wrong-headed and counter-productive” in that it would damage “good” and “bad” business alike.

Walker seems to have over looked the fact that these are meaningless terms when it comes to business. A “good” business is one that makes money (the more the better) not one that behaves in a moral way. Despite Google’s informal motto of “Don’t be evil”, no (big) business can (as we have seen from the search giant’s recent fines and accusations of ill-deeds).

Walker wants to encourage businesses in the UK to limit themselves, imposing caps on pay so the EU doesn’t have to come in and inflict limits on them.

He is against government action but for industry action. We should not be deceived into thinking that this is for any reasons other than selfish ones. If the EU begins imposing rules on how companies (not just the banks) are able to reward their employees for generating profits, where will it end?

From a business perspective the EU taking further measures will be disastrous in the long term and Walker is counselling UK business to recognise that they shouldn’t be greedy in the short term as they will loose out in the long term.

While he would like this to be taken as a call for a return to good business practice in the moral sense it is just a scantly veiled reminder to businesses that the money made over time, without EU rules will be far higher than the short term rewards many banks are currently doling out with both hands.

Photograph: Getty Images

Billy Bambrough writes for Retail Banker International at VRL financial news.
 

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Is there such a thing as responsible betting?

Punters are encouraged to bet responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly.

I try not to watch the commercials between matches, or the studio discussions, or anything really, before or after, except for the match itself. And yet there is one person I never manage to escape properly – Ray Winstone. His cracked face, his mesmerising voice, his endlessly repeated spiel follow me across the room as I escape for the lav, the kitchen, the drinks cupboard.

I’m not sure which betting company he is shouting about, there are just so many of them, offering incredible odds and supposedly free bets. In the past six years, since the laws changed, TV betting adverts have increased by 600 per cent, all offering amazingly simple ways to lose money with just one tap on a smartphone.

The one I hate is the ad for BetVictor. The man who has been fronting it, appearing at windows or on roofs, who I assume is Victor, is just so slimy and horrible.

Betting firms are the ultimate football parasites, second in wealth only to kit manufacturers. They have perfected the capitalist’s art of using OPM (Other People’s Money). They’re not directly involved in football – say, in training or managing – yet they make millions off the back of its popularity. Many of the firms are based offshore in Gibraltar.

Football betting is not new. In the Fifties, my job every week at five o’clock was to sit beside my father’s bed, where he lay paralysed with MS, and write down the football results as they were read out on Sports Report. I had not to breathe, make silly remarks or guess the score. By the inflection in the announcer’s voice you could tell if it was an away win.

Earlier in the week I had filled in his Treble Chance on the Littlewoods pools. The “treble” part was because you had three chances: three points if the game you picked was a score draw, two for a goalless draw and one point for a home or away win. You chose eight games and had to reach 24 points, or as near as possible, then you were in the money.

“Not a damn sausage,” my father would say every week, once I’d marked and handed him back his predictions. He never did win a sausage.

Football pools began in the 1920s, the main ones being Littlewoods and Vernons, both based in Liverpool. They gave employment to thousands of bright young women who checked the results and sang in company choirs in their spare time. Each firm spent millions on advertising. In 1935, Littlewoods flew an aeroplane over London with a banner saying: Littlewoods Above All!

Postwar, they blossomed again, taking in £50m a year. The nation stopped at five on a Saturday to hear the scores, whether they were interested in football or not, hoping to get rich. BBC Sports Report began in 1948 with John Webster reading the results. James Alexander Gordon took over in 1974 – a voice soon familiar throughout the land.

These past few decades, football pools have been left behind, old-fashioned, low-tech, replaced by online betting using smartphones. The betting industry has totally rebooted itself. You can bet while the match is still on, trying to predict who will get the next goal, the next corner, the next throw-in. I made the last one up, but in theory you can bet instantly, on anything, at any time.

The soft sell is interesting. With the old football pools, we knew it was a remote flutter, hoping to make some money. Today the ads imply that betting on football somehow enhances the experience, adds to the enjoyment, involves you in the game itself, hence they show lads all together, drinking and laughing and putting on bets.

At the same time, punters are encouraged to do it responsibly. What a laugh that is. It’s like encouraging drunks to get drunk responsibly, to crash our cars responsibly, murder each other responsibly. Responsibly and respect are now two of the most meaningless words in the football language. People have been gambling, in some form, since the beginning, watching two raindrops drip down inside the cave, lying around in Roman bathhouses playing games. All they’ve done is to change the technology. You have to respect that.

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 05 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's war