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9 August 2012

Where is our patriotism for British financial services?

The City could do with some of our Olympic spirit.

By Gina Miller

Whilst Team GB excels and its athletes epitomise the best of Britain and continue to be a shining example of the rewards achievable through dedication, honest hard work and, passion; many aspects of the City continue to shame us.  Having said this, the recent Standard Chartered furore appears unlike many of the recent financial scandals.  It can be construed as an opportunistic, badly concealed political attack by a New York financial regulator trying to profit from discrediting a bank run from London to the benefit of Wall Street institutions.

Whilst the Governor of the Bank of England has recently said as much, the reality is that the New York regulators are reaping the rewards of poor regulation in the UK. Had the Bank of England and the FSA not managed to be so totally inept in the Barclays et al LIBOR scandal, it would not now be open season on attacking any London based institution, whether they deserve it or not.  The Bank of England chose to ignore the eminent advice of the US Federal Reserve which could have been an early alert to the Libor scandal in the first place.

The only way forward has to be to put aside self-interest, look at the longer term picture and resurrect the reputation of the City to reflect the values and ethos central to the Olympic spirit.  We need to fundamentally improve standards here in London to regain the reputation for integrity and quality which we have recently lost. It’s not just the other banks that suffer from guilt by association from these scandals but any financial services institution. To the man in the street we are all the same, they do not differentiate. 

The families, trainers, medics and their full support teams have all rallied in support of British Sport but where is the rallying in support of our financial services industry which contributes 10 per cent of our GDP? We are in serious danger of losing our place on the podium when it comes to the world’s winning financial centres.  

I implore those in positions of power and government to step in and ensure that the codes and regulations that govern our financial services industry are fit for purpose and adhered to in word and spirit and that they provide a robust framework to end the shoddy practises eroding the industry’s reputation on the national as well as international stage.  The trade bodies, be they the bankers, insurers, pension providers or fund managers, need to be ‘dope’ tested and I don’t mean dope as in drugs but dope as idiotic! To have professional standards and regulations overseen, as they are in many cases, by trade bodies from the financial services industry is the equivalent to putting the supplier of enhancing drugs in charge of the doping tests. No longer can the regulator be allowed to delegate their responsibilities to self-serving trade bodies.

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What is needed is not more regulation but more effective regulation – regulation that is based on fundamental over-riding principles applied consistently, simply and overseen by independent bodies, not self-interested trade groups.  London needs to restore its position in the global league table of financial centres.