Bankers’ Conduct: Yet another reason why SMEs and savers are avoiding the Banks

Potential misconduct by bankers has been included in the banks’ compulsory stress checks carried out by the European Banking Authority. Good news? Well, partly. Their hand has been forced by the stark reality that banks see litigation costs as a result of foul play by their employees as part and parcel of operating cost. This isn’t exactly a morsel, either; poor conduct accounts for 7.5% of the average bank’s operating cost, according to The Group of Thirty, an international body of financiers and academics charged with examining the consequences of private and public sector issues.

Holding back capital to account for misconduct is not the same as trying to stamp out misconduct. The rather feeble ruling lacks the teeth to punish the banks for continuing the attitude of short-termism that provided the stimulus for the financial crisis in 2008: bankers can still get away with borrowing short-term, lending long-term and apply the leverage by borrowing from each other. The bonus culture that was so vehemently criticised is still prevalent. Those who wished for prison sentences, confiscation of funds and other sanctions for the culprits of the financial crisis won’t be celebrating this new ruling. The cost of covering for this misconduct is likely to be keenly felt by ordinary savers and SMEs who find access to finance increasingly difficult to access.

The “conduct” ruling comes in light of the new stress tests that global financial regulators hope will force banks to hold sufficient capital in their reserves to absorb an economic downturn. The figure bandied around in the US press is a staggering $1.19 trillion of debt that can be written off when the banks fail. This will take away billions of pounds, dollars and euros, all of which could be lent out through directly matching lenders with borrowers. The fall guys? UK SMEs with restricted access to finance, and savers stuck with the miserable gruel of savings accounts and ISAs. The Solution? P2P Lending matches up lenders and borrowers, cuts out the banks and middle men and allows SMEs to benefit from the wisdom of a crowd. Ultimately it is a huge fillip for the global economy: surely the band of global regulators should spend less time trying to shore up a broken model that puts social cohesion and economic solidity at risk, and more time focussing on producing fully regulated P2P lending platforms.

The momentum is already shifting away from the banks: including the conduct of bankers in the stress tests is not the answer for the regulatory authorities. Investing in P2P will ultimately benefit SMEs, the lifeblood of any developed economy, and savers who can earn decent interest on their savings by matching directly with borrowers through secure, regulated platforms.

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