Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Will bankers never learn!

I have lost count of the articles I have now written on the banking sector, and until they turn themselves around, I will continue to criticise it. While wealthy and out of touch Royals such as Prince Andrew may see fit to defend bankers, the vast majority of the UK population do not. His comments show that he does not fully understand the financial or political dimension in which he is commenting. He asks us all to leave banks alone so that they can get back to business as normal, and that the constant barrage of criticism is not helpful.

That as it may, the criticism currently being heaped upon our bankers is entirely of their own making. They have been bailed out at taxpayer’s expense, and yet have shown little in the way of gratitude or remorse. Indeed, they continue to reward themselves with obscene bonuses whilst in the middle of a recession they have created.

I would happily leave bankers alone if I felt safe in the knowledge that they were acting with integrity, and with the greater good of the economy in mind. The flaw in the previous statement is that bankers have little concept of integrity or altruism. Their only motivation for going to work each day is to make as much money for themselves as possible, and forget about any consequences. The banking sector attracts this sort of person, with its high risk, high payout culture. So we shouldn’t be too surprised to find that our investment banking industry is populated by those with dubious scruples.

In a Utopian world, we should be able to let the banking sector get on with its job, without the interference from outside sources such as government. Laissez faire banking would provide an open and free market for banking similar to the free trade between differing countries. While this model works pretty well for trade and markets, it doesn’t seem to work for banking. The risks are too great, the payouts are excessive, and this simply attracts the wrong sort of person. Maybe the banking sector needs to be run by more traditional captains of industry from other international sectors such as retail or manufacturing.

A radical rethink needs to happen with the banking sector. It needs to look at long term planning and goal setting. If bonuses are to be paid, they need to be paid from profits over the longer term to discourage reckless short term gambling. Investment in high risk ventures need to be managed collectively so that the risks and possible impact can be assessed properly. At least then everyone would know what is involved, and the venture could be vetoed if the risks were considered too great.

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