May 9 2018

According to David Kynaston’s history of the Bank of England (Till Time’s Last Stand), financial crises of one sort or another seem to occur at roughly 10-year intervals and, usually, in the autumn.  Oh dear!  Let’s hope then all the lessons of the last crisis have been properly learnt.  After all, as a famous financial journalist wrote: ““The great wish on the part of the English people as to currency and banking is to be safe.”  Well, quite – and as true now as when it was written – in 1844 by Walter Bagehot.

My take on the last 30 years or so of financial crises and how the sector is responding can be found here in May’s edition of FS Focus.  (My thanks to John Mongelard of the ICAEW and Chris Evans, the editor, and his team.)


The article can also be found here (on page 32).

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Compare and Contrast

April 20 2018

Today’s announcement by the FCA and PRA about the draft warning notice to Barclays boss, Jess Staley, seems to bring to an end (assuming the level of the fine is not contested, not necessarily a given) the lengthy investigation into his conduct when he twice sought to uncover the identity of an anonymous whistleblower, contrary to the rules, good practice and, one hopes, Barclays’ own internal procedures.

It’s noteworthy that the FCA and PRA are saying that Mr Staley had not acted with sufficient care when he set out to uncover the identity of the whistleblower.  Unfortunate wording since it implies that it was his ineptness in doing so that they are criticising rather than the fact that he did not realise that it was quite improper for him to try at all, let alone twice.  But the regulators have shied away from any suggestion of impropriety since calling into question Mr Staley’s fitness and propriety would have called into question whether he should or could continue in his role at all.

Always tricky to get the tone right when criticising those at the top.  So we must wait for the final public notice to see the basis on which the regulators have come to their decision.

Elsewhere Sir Alan Parker has resigned his position at Save The Children two weeks after the Charity Commission announced an inquiry into how the charity had handled sexual harassment claims dating back to 2012 and involving senior executives, including the former CEO and policy director.  As with other similar claims, it is not so much the initial allegations themselves (bad as they may be) which have led to grief but the way they were initially investigated and how those raising concerns were treated.  Better procedures and more training will undoubtedly be required but, even more importantly, what is really needed is an understanding that ignoring the messenger is always the wrong thing to do (no matter how mixed their motivation may be), a lesson others in public life might also usefully learn. As is hoping that the problems will go away if ignored.  They won’t.

Still, if banking has not yet got it right, it is at least better than the NHS, despite the recommendations of the Francis Report following the events at Stafford Hospital, as this programme describes.  Worth listening to just to hear a lawyer who had dealt with both NHS whistleblowers and ones working in a bank say, with more than a touch of incredulity in her voice, that a bank  – “a bank!” – had got it right about how to treat a whistleblower and investigate their claims.  Compliments must be taken where they can.


Photo by James McGill on Unsplash