Speech from the Financial Services Forum Annual Dinner 2017

I was honoured to be asked to give the keynote speech at the Financial Services Forum Annual Dinner at the Guildhall in November.

My theme was innovation, disruption and trust building.

You can find the text of the speech following:

Thank you David, for your kind introduction and to the Forum for inviting me to speak here tonight.

The Financial Services Forum has always held a place in my heart since I remember joining in the early years of my career whilst at Deutsche Bank and, of course, I was humbled to win the Marketer of the Year Award in 2008.

I remember being very nervous that night and thinking that I would never win. The chat on my table was excited especially when one of the team came back from a loo break and said that they had overheard someone saying that they had voted for me! Then another person came back from a quick ciggie and she said that she too had found people who had voted for me. So my advice is if you are up for an award tonight, and want to know your chances then I’d hangout in the loo or go for a fag!

Anyone nominated for an award tonight – I wish you the very best of luck.

Tonight I earn my dinner by taking a few minutes of your time to talk about technology and financial services. Finance has been an early adopter of new technology – from the abacus to the mainframe computer and as an industry it has always been critical to our economy. We are blessed that the UK consumer is very open to trying new things. ClearScore, my company, has taken an approach to empowering people with their credit data and we have seen fast adoption, now our product is used by nearly 5.4m users in the UK and 250,000 in South Africa. We have delivered our fair share of disruption. But as I have built my career and operated in our industry I ask myself the question:

What are financial services really for?

Obviously at some level it’s about capital. Looking after money and assets, growing them, making them flow, managing risk. But I also think that at a very deep level, especially in the capitalist democracies in which we live and that are so under fire at the moment, finance is about managing and growing a very different form of capital and that’s social capital or to put it another way trust. In the delicate eco-system that is our economy and our industry, especially in the UK and Europe, trust is in danger of continuing to diminish.

This year’s Edelman Trust Barometer survey showed that still less than half of people trusted our industry. Financial services are the least trusted of all the business sectors and that is as true today as it was in 2007 before the financial crisis. You’ll be pleased to hear that in another survey from 2015 58% of people said all of us working in financial services were at best unprofessional and at worst dishonest.

The good news is it’s not just us. Almost every profession from politician, to journalist, to doctor, have seen decreases in trust over the past 20 years. The media is no longer respected, replaced with news of the royal wedding and Trump’s constant tweeting.

This collapse in trust is very significantly problematic for our economy. Every economy that has thrived has had embedded within it a complex mesh of bonds of trust that help to lower transaction costs. Whether it is the stock markets in the UK or US, or chaebol based families in South Korea, or the local SME business groups that are prevalent across Germany, all of these myriad structures help to make capital flow by creating trust between people.

Almost all change in financial services requires our system to work together at very many levels. We need to operate in an environment where the consumer, the regulator and the industry trusts each other. Now, of course, this mustn’t be blind trust but it also must assume a baseline of trustworthiness otherwise the barriers that we put up to working together, and winning the trust of the consumer, will become insurmountable.

Technology can help build both financial and social capital and it can do it fast. Look no further than Bitcoin. Just this week this new currency broke the $10,000 mark for the first time. The learnings from Bitcoin are numerous. The technology is opensource and transparent. The currency solves several major transaction issues for users in major industries. The system relies on multiple entities working together, competing to create coins but collaborating to innovate around use cases. I’m sure there will be lots of debate over your main course about the outlook for cryptocurrencies but what opensource distributed ledger technology has been able to do is build significant amounts of trust in a very short amount of time and captured increasing amounts of financial capital.

In the UK, for many reasons from Brexit to increasing inequality, I believe we are at a turning point for our economy. Historically we have enjoyed a particularly strong base of trust. From social norms, to our class structure and enduring entities from the Bank of England, to our courts, to the local pub, that have served us very well. And banking has contributed significantly to this system.

The profession of banker was always traditionally seen as solid and dependable. Banks were full of people who were part of our communities, working from buildings on every high street, who were known and were trustworthy and trusted. Products and decisions were simpler, and more transparent.

This reputation for trust across financial services didn’t happen by accident – it was hard won over centuries. We gather here today in the Guildhall at the heart of the City of London Corporation. The corporation is the oldest continuous democratic commune in the world – having existed for over 2000 years. From the Roman’s, to William the Conqueror, to the Stuart’s, the City has survived as a bulwark for the advantages of democracy and free trade, thriving through the rule of law and lots of social ties fostered through Freemen, and Councils, Courts, Halls and organisations like the Financial Services Forum, and of course, the very many bars and pubs that we enjoy to this very day.

But despite this history, our reputation has severely compromised. However, I strongly believe that we can use our collective will, our capital, our ingenuity and technology to redress the balance.

Today the Prime Minister, the Newspaper editor, the CEO are rarely very trusted. Much of the collapse in our reputation is connected with this lack of trust in authority. These authority figures have been replaced by “people like me”. Witness the power of TrustPilot or Glassdoor.

Technology can help bridge the divide between all of us and our customers. The social web, chatbots, artificial intelligence and machine learning fused with real conversations facilitated through video for example allow cost-efficient interactions with a more human feel. Experiences like Cleo which uses AI to chats to me on Facebook about my money every morning, or ClearScore’s financial education chatbots used by more than a million people – these interactions are involving, warm and funny. This can help bring back the human whilst leveraging the efficiency and convenience of a technology enabled bank in your pocket which has often removed human warmth and connection from financial services.

There is no doubt that much of our mind space whether we work for established institutions or small start-ups is dominated by the idea of disruption and disrupters. At one level this is a good thing. The regulator wants more competition, there are still very many under-served consumers, large institutions struggle with new technology, data is opening up all the time, and in many cases markets needs to be made more efficient.

But at another level disruption seem oppositional and aggressive – it creates tension – thoughts of the winners and the losers – it creates sides. And whilst we need to compete fiercely in the market for the good of the customer, dedicating ourselves to delivering better services, at lower cost, more efficiently. We also, if we are to re-establish trust in our industry and rebuild our collective reputation, need to actively support each other and collaborate more.

When I see disrupters attacking banks for over-charging on a foreign exchange transaction, or scandal after scandal from the investment banks, or the government using the regulator through PPI to redistribute money back into an ailing economy, or major financial institutions being reluctant to embrace open banking I wonder whether we are not putting short term commercial gain above longer-term maintenance of the trust that is fundamental to our success. We may win the individual battles, but lose the collective war.

What we create when we attack each other, either through our messaging or our business models, is a confused and untrusting consumer. That consumer is increasingly frustrated with the services with which they are being provided without any real understanding of why they feel this way. All they are left with is a vague sense that they are being ripped off by a system that they don’t understand and is full of bad people doing bad things.

Now whilst there are those in our industry who do the wrong things, most people I know who work for financial services companies are talented, committed people, like you and me, trying to do good things for our customers whilst operating in this sea of mistrust and confusion. Certainly the 160 people who work for ClearScore are some of the most committed and trustworthy people I have the pleasure to know – your teams will be the same.

So, we must continue to execute the obvious functions of our industry well – manage capital, be prudent with risk, help our customers make good financial decisions, create fair and balanced products. But our mission must be to work together to build back the social capital in our industry and our economy.

Tomorrow when we are back at our desks, as we think about our business and brand strategies, or develop our propositions, talk with colleagues and customers, or invent our next new innovation; whether we work for the largest of banks, or the smallest of start-ups, whether we are the disrupted or the disrupters we should take a moment to think back to this evening, to this wonderful room, and the history it represents.  We should dream big about the application of technology to solve real customer problems. But above all everyone of us should dedicate ourselves to continuing to win back the trust of our nation through hard work and our ingenuity collaborating to build a better, more trusted, more trustworthy financial services industry. To achieve this would be a true contribution of which we all can be rightly proud.

Thank you.

BUSINESS VISION – LEARNING FROM SUCCESSES & FAILURES (Screencast)

Business Vision: I was recently asked by a major corporation to prepare a talk on "Business vision" and how to create them. I told two stories one of Citigroup a massive bank and it's flawed vision and one about a much smaller clothing business Patagonia and it's inspirational leader. 

This screencast is a 20 minute version of the hour presentation buts gives you the key points of the stories. 

The key points illustrated by these compelling stories of success and failure around setting a business vision are: 

  • Business Vision requires leadership that listens and learns but can also lead from the front
  • Business Vision requires head and heart to be compelling
  • Business Vision needs to be creative but also pragmatic to be effective 

Here is a great article from inc.com about creating business vision that is well worth reading. 

What do you think of business vision?

What do you think about business and brand visions? Do they inspire you to feel great about the business you work in or run and it's business vision? Leave a comment!

If you want to see the full presentation including the videos then visit the presentation on Prezi.com.

You can also see me speaking here.

Want me to speak at your business or team event? I regularly speak about trust, business vision, brands, marketing or a wide range of topics tailored to your event – please get in touch.

Thanks

Justin

ING DIRECT “CAMPAIGN FOR A BIT OF DECENCY” – DECENT OR DECEITFUL ADVERTISING?

ING today splashed the latest instalment of their 'Campaign for a Bit of Decency' onto the front and back covers inside and out of the Metro. ING Direct has quite a prolific history of copy led advertising. I commented on a mortgage advert of theirs a while back questioning whether simplicity and speed of application was really a desired or desirable benefit when advertising a mortgage.

Brand building by association

classic marlboro advertising

This latest campaign is a good example of a currently very common approach to financial services advertising that uses the classic 'benefit by association' form of persausion. This advertising technique tries to get the man on the street to associate two particular ideas, for example a brand and a benefit, by juxtaposing them regularly to force the association into our poor overloaded brains. You know the kind of thing – think of the classic advertising of Marlboro with their image of a cowboy riding on the wide open plain which was very successful at getting people to think that this particular cigarette was "cool, independent and masculine….".

So why is this type of advertising in such favour by financial services brands at the moment? It's because almost all financial services brands are caught between a rock and a hard place. The simple fact is that as consumers and citizens we loath these brands and businesses for all they stand for and have put us through over the last few years. But unfortunately due to a combination of desperate need to quickly make lots of money (from us as consumers in order to pay us as taxpayers back – ironic eh?), almost total lack of leadership, continued regulatory confusion, and a complete lack of empathy with people (both employees and customers) banks have very little that is meaningful to say about themselves. They equally have virtually nothing that is different and/or better to sell. Therefore they have to rely on the flim-flam associative brand campaign. For Natwest it's emergency cash, for Santander its a range of cashback or offers to tempt us through their doors and with ING Direct 'The Campaign for a Bit of Decency'. So let's look at whether it is good or bad?

Fashionable advertising but how effective?

Well certainly it ticks all the current fashions of advertising and I can see the marketing team and ad agency getting excited:

  • It's social – builds from people and their stories – 'hundreds of us responded' apparently
  • It's eminently Facebook-able and twitter-ified – note the liberal sprinkling of hash tags and urls
  • It's cheap and easy and can fly the banner of "corporate social responsibility lite" – they've picked 10 'decency' winners each of which get £1000 each. "Well that's nice" you may say, good for ING giving money to these very deserving people. This is fine until you realise that the advertising cost for the ads will have been many tens of thousands of pounds – so it seems a bit topsy-turvy – more shouting than actually being on the side of decent people.
  • It's local – celebrating local heroes and stories – they even managed to get a link to the Olympics – ticking another current trend box 

Short term success, long term failure

So what will it achieve? I'm sure the brand tracker will jump up against key equities of trust, friendliness, on your side or whatever combination of words are being tracked by Millward-Brown. Internally employees will probably like it – what's not to like? It's positive, it's 'nice', heck it's even got medal to give away. Bet they've got a programme running internally to celebrate employee decency – and if they don't they should.

But once the bit of decency campaign has been put to bed, the metro ads are in the bin, will it really make any difference to the standing of ING Direct or the financial services sector overall? I don't think it will and in fact it will probably do even more damage to trust in the brand and sector. This type of advertising whilst in vogue is essentially the same approach to marketing and advertising that has been practised over the past 20 years by financial services brands – it's just a more modern and fluffy version.

Trust will only be restored when the hard work starts getting done

The reason that almost all financial services brands wallow in the toilet of consumer apathy, resentment, even hatred, is because the products and service are boring, difficult, unfair, give poor customer service and are focused on extracting as much money out of system whilst delivering as little benefit as possible. The real repositioning challenge in all financial services businesses is to reposition the business model, the internal culture, creating values led vision and letting employees lead with their hearts and heads to deliver better service and better products.

Unfortunately this is just too hard. This road doesn't have the backing of top leadership. The need to try and reinvent the way banking works and both extracts and contributes value to society is just too fundamental a change to tackle. Therefore we continue to get advertising and marketing that just focuses on sleight of hand, diversion, association and playing the same game that got us into the mess we are currently in. We continue to get products that are poor value, difficult to understand and mired in crap service.

…and if that wasn't enough it doesn't matter anymore because ING Direct is dead!

Oh and if you needed anymore evidence that the "Campaign for a Bit of Decency" is a pleasant but diversionary sham, ING announced on the 29th November that it is to sell ING Direct UK to Barclays – so all those customers who started to believe in 'decency' even by association will be thrown back into the mainstream of UK big 3 banking where decency is in very short supply.

What's your view? Please leave a comment!

ING Direct Campaign for a Bit of Decency

ING Direct's Campaign Advertising even has a medal

MAKING CREDIT CLEARER

I’ve talked frequently on this blog about banking and how financial services companies should be engaging with their specific customer groups rather than broadcasting to the masses (see Engaging with the Web 2.0 consumer or Just how special and different are financial services brands?).

We saw First Direct making a foray into the space when it started to externalise its social media commentary through First Direct Live. That was a confident move for a brand that knows it is good at service.

I also covered “A Crocodile for Billy” which was a children’s financial education initiative by LloydsTSB a while back. This was a positive first step but insignificant versus the scale of financial illiteracy in the UK.

Those in the industry (and most likely very few others) will also have seen the FSA‘s website MoneyMadeClear which was created from industry money by the FSA to give unbiased basic information about how money and financial products work and how to manage money, debt and personal finances.

Unfortunately the most striking aspect of MoneyMadeClear is that is it so unengaging and boring.

You can tell it has been developed by a branch of government. Given the opportunities to engage and bring to life complex information using rich media that the internet provides this was a massive missed opportunity.

Now (unfettered by my management!) the team at Capital One have launched an initiative to explain how credit cards work and should be used. Capital One over the past couple of years have been retrenching into products for those parts of the market that find it harder to get credit cards. Having listened and talked for many hours with these customers myself the lack of understanding of how finance and money works, even at the most basic level, is sometimes shocking. Perhaps the best (worst?) example of this was a respondent in a piece of research who was convinced that an interest rate of 40% was better than an interest rate of 20% “because it is higher”.

So given their focus on this part of the market financial education is an important responsibility for Capital One which is why they have launched an initiative called Credit Made Clearer. What I think is impressive is that they have made a genuine attempt to engage the audience. Simple explanations, engaging graphics, in short chunks of information; there is no product sell apart from the branding of Capital One. They have integrated a range of channels and approaches such as a YouTube channel.

No Brainers

Using your credit card

Of course they will expect an uplift in their brand perception and perhaps an uplift in applications so one could argue that this is a thinly veneered marketing campaign. However in my experience the intention and desire to get credit is rarely solely driven by a marketing offer and I would much rather have people taking cards when they understand the process more fully and think more carefully about it. So if this initiative from Capital One can help even a few people understand how credit and credit cards work more fully then it is making a valid contribution.

But all these activities lead to a bigger question for the financial services industry: how can we use this initiative, together with MoneyMadeClear and A Crocodile for Billy, to work together in coalition, using the considerable resources available of talent, time and money, perhaps linking with our new coalition government, to really make a massive, integrated, impact on financial education.

If you want to talk about this idea – then drop me a line or post a comment below – perhaps we could pull together and make a big difference.

If you enjoyed this post then why not consider subscribing to the blog – it’s free and easy – click here

Justin

Mail me: justin@basini.com
My website: http://www.basini.com/
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GO ON TRUST ME…..

Many of my real world friends who read this blog might be bored by me banging on about trust – so I apologise off the bat for this post. But quite few of my readers dropped me a line following my recent trust post about BT so I thought I’d share a few more insights from my research into the historical, economic, psychological and sociological research into why trust is important to human beings and their societies. I hope to create a dedicated site to this research soon. So if you have questions or thoughts on how businesses can build trust then please leave a comment or get in touch with me.

I’d like to share three further insights into what businesses (and their brands) have forgotten about how trust works.


1. Trust is only built through dialogue. And the thing with dialogue is that is it two way. Most brands have forgotten that in order to have conversation you need to have a point of view, be interesting and have continuity. Make an (easy) imaginary leap that I am boring and suffer short term memory loss (but you don’t know that). Our first conversation won’t be good and the second, as I deny all knowledge of knowing you, has the potential to be positively damaging . Yet call the typical contact centre and you will be subjected to minutes of disclaimers telling you what can’t be discussed and then they have no knowledge of the 10 calls you’ve made before. Zip on the trust front.

2. We trust more in people than anything else. Everything else is an abstraction. Whatever the brand models and marketing literature say trust is fundamentally a human thing. Yes, it is possible to trust in brands, businesses, governments, organisations etc but the quickest and easiest way to build this is to get people to do the talking and the doing. The recent Toyota recovery press advertising covered this well. Whilst they might have handled the whole crisis poorly but this advertising with its premise of “we are thousands of people working as hard as we can to recover the situation” was fundamentally human and powerful.

3. To be trusted, you need to trust. Every brand I’ve worked with wants people to trust them – that’s the point of brands right? Yet most businesses and their processes don’t trust the customer. Businesses too readily default to a position of policies that cater to the downside risk of fraud and loss rather than trust their average customer. You’ve banked with a high street bank for 40 years with a perfect record but retired last year. Try asking for an unsecured loan – 40 years counts for nothing – policy says “we don’t trust you”.

If you want to build or rebuild trust you could do worse than allow your humans to be human.

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As ever thanks for reading…..

Justin

Mail me: justin@basini.com
My website: http://www.basini.com/
Read my blog: http://www.blog.basini.com/
Follow me: www.twitter.com/justinbasini

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Financial Services brands: it’s not about being different but making a difference

New blog following a debate at the Financial Services Forum this morning.

Justin Basini

Thinking about marketing, branding and advertising.
Open for chatting, collaborating and consulting.

justin@basini.com

+44 (0)7786548395

Visit my website at: http://www.basini.com

Read my blog at: http://www.blog.basini.com

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JUST HOW SPECIAL AND DIFFERENT ARE FINANCIAL SERVICES BRANDS?

This morning I took part in a lively debate organised by the Financial Services Forum and their newly formed Brand Strategy group chaired by the inestimable Lucian Camp.

I shared the floor with Tim Pile who is CEO of Cogent Elliott and has a long and distinguished career in marketing including being CEO of Sainsburys Bank and the insightful Mike Hoban who is now running marketing for DirectGov and has had successful stints at Scottish Widows and Barclaycard.

We were each asked by Lucian to describe the essence of brand building in either Packaged goods (Tim took this on), Services (excluding financial services – Mike took this one) and Financial Services (this was mine).

My key point was that I believe many of the principles of brand building are common irrespective of category because essentially we are dealing with human psychology but that the context of these principles within financial services does make it "special and different".

Three context differences in financial services:

1. Financial services companies are hard wired around product and P&L analysis rather than brand and customer.

This means that the power within financial services companies almost always resides within commercial product owners rather than marketing. These leaders are trained in P&L, balance sheet risk, regulatory compliance, operational effectiveness not marketing, brand, experience and customer.

The very logic of brand building, positioning for strategic competitive advantage, customer segmentation, product development based on consumer need are all more difficult concepts in a financial services organisation. The result is an industry that in general creates me-too products which are overly complex, often game the consumer, provide a poor overall experience and are communicated in complex jargon.

2. Financial services are delivered through people. And people are much harder to manage than a shampoo formulation.

Certainly in most product categories especially the FMCG companies, brands are entities created to effectively penetrate the customer mind and form associations with product performance rather than being a set of associations about a group of people doing something. In most cases in FMCG companies the brand you are marketing is not the brand you work for. Given most financial services organisations have one or only a few brand the internal service and brand alignment challenge in these brands is core and material to their success. From the Indian call centre agent to the CEO in a financial organisation each needs to understand the brand and how it applies to their job.

3. Financial services products tend to be more risky and complex than many other types of products or services. They require much more effort from the consumer and the provider.

An irony of financial services businesses is that the organisation often believes they are the most commoditised of products. I used to be told all the time at Capital One – credit cards are a “low involvement” business. Consumers take a product and then want us to disappear into the background.

But having spent lots of time obsessing about how to make white gloop in a bottle exciting to consumers, I don’t think that financial services products are or should be low involvement – they have a massive impact on people’s lives and well being.

If they low involvement its probably because they are difficult and complex to communicate and understand. This combines with the terrible mess we are in from a regulatory perspective, defaulting to complete, unedited exposure of all information, to make it extremely difficult for the consumer to make an informed and empowered decision.

And finally (as Lucian called it the "Basini bombshell") I ended up questioning one of the core purposes of brand building:

4. Financial services brands – it's not about being different but about making a difference

The strategic goal of marketing in many businesses is to create a differentiated position in the market that gives you competitive advantage through cheaper cost of sales or price premium for example. Of the many principles that we could consider this is perhaps one of the most fundamental.

Actually I’m not sure this has been proven effective for the main stream brands in financial services. If we look at our banks for example. A highly consolidated and inert market with very little to split apart the businesses products, performance or promise.  Certainly not enough to encourage mass switching to occur except maybe in those more liquid and more easily gamed products like credit cards.

In highly competitive and easily switched categories there is definite advantage to creating new ideas that better match and deliver against the consumer’s myriad needs. But the difference in financial services given their complex, impactful and long term nature is that aim shouldn’t be to create the new, new thing to gain share at the expense of customer loyalty but to focus on superior product reliability and partnership as a route to extracting competitive advantage and value. This is how our organisations and products can make a difference.

As marketers, we may not be in the right job to get to the CEO spot, we might be wired a little differently from the mainstream in our organisations but given our products are difficult and risky, and are built through human relationships and service, we have myriad opportunities to build great brands which have lasting value for our organisations and customers.

Lucian's blog on the session can be read here. 
 

Here is my presentation as a slidecast:

 

Thanks for reading. As always please share and comment if you've got a view.

Justin

Mail me: justin@basini.com
My website & Blog: http://www.basini.com/
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MORALITY & BANKING

Yesterday I attended a talk at the RSA by John Lanchester who has recently written a book called Whoops! about the credit crunch.
The talk and subsequent questioning was mostly about the role of culture and regulation in banking; with the audience and speaker exploring how to develop a system that might be more sustainable.
I wrote a blog called Banking and the Common Good a while back which explored how the concept of common good could be placed as a central focus of a financial institution. Today’s blog picks up on some of these concepts.
The question is how we create a banking system that actually balances commercial objectives with social objectives that deliver benefit to the common good. I believe that a new language of responsibility needs to be imposed on the banks. Nearly all banks will tutor their leaders in Business Ethics; all banks have values statements that will include some version of “doing the right thing”.
But despite these words and intentions we still have a system that doesn’t in aggregate and from a macro-economic perspective deliver “the right thing” and act ethically in its impact. The frustration is that there are very few financial institutions that deliberately act in a clearly unethical way decision by decision, action by action, but in aggregate the effect is destructive.
The heart of the issue for me is one of what banks, especially investment banks, markets focused institutions and bank leadership more generally, value. And that is money, to this everything else is subservient. This is why banks are so successful, they have created extremely efficient systems for maximising profit to the exclusion of virtually all else. This creates inattentional blindness, which is the psychological phenomenon of being “blind” to anything apart from that which you are concentrating on, add hubris and you have a system that builds risk and is narrowly focused on one immediate outcome.
This valuing of one outcome only, with little assessment of second and third order effects and impacts, allows for a culture to become devoid of morals. And that moral bankruptcy turned into financial bankruptcy.
So what to do? Remembering that business ethics and values were taught and “on the wall” at our big financial institutions and offered no protection.
I would advocate a complete reversal of the incentive systems at our banks. We need an incentive system that puts most emphasis on demonstrating moral action and joined up thinking rather than seeking risk for greater return. This should be in an overtly, openly discussed moral framework. Leaders in these organisations need to become expert not just in maths and playing the markets, but seeing the impact of their business on different stakeholders and balancing this for commercial and social return.
Morality is at the very heart of our economic system. Adam Smith’s conception of markets was built on predictable outcomes between buyer and seller. The foundations of these predictable outcomes, in a time when regulation and rules of commerce were much less regimented and established than they are now, were moral action from individuals. I don’t think it is surprising that The Theory of Moral Sentiments, that Smith wrote 15 years prior to The Wealth of Nations and the majority of the books in The Wealth deal with how individuals living in society should conduct themselves. In order for the invisible hand, specialisation and the market dynamic to work as a value exchange there needs to be trust and in Smith’s conception this comes from morality.
This morality will need to be imposed. Major financial institutions have regressed back to the status quo, as John Lanchester said yesterday “the system is as risky as ever”. They will never voluntarily accept any balances to their earning power. So this will need to come from changed systems of regulation.
But this creates a paradox in that regulation, with its rule based approach, enables a moral vacuum by replacing human judgement with an attitude of “if we stay within the rules we are acting responsibly”. Ironically the FSA (the UK bank regulator) knew this. Over the past few years anyone working in a UK bank will be familiar with the pre-crash mantra of “principle based regulation”. No longer were we to work just within the “rules” but to their spirit. It didn’t work because it stayed at the surface, and people’s behaviour doesn’t change, in many cases the people need to change.
By changing what is valued in banks this will change who progresses within the organisations. This will be a key to unlock a new system. Let’s open up board positions on banks to a wider audience. What’s clear from the past two years is that having a career in banking behind you doesn’t give you any special insight or understanding so let’s have a more diverse group from environmentalists, to community leaders, to customers, having a real voice in the running of financial institutions.
It has been said that markets are amoral. That maybe true but they don’t work unless their participants act morally. Creating moral financial institutions working for commercial gain and the social common good is the challenge.

Please comment below and share using the social bookmark icons. Thanks as ever for reading.

Justin

Mail me: justin@basini.com
My website: http://www.basini.com/
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THE FINANCIAL SERVICES CHALLENGE: MORALITY AND BANKING

After a really interesting RSA talk yesterday by John Lanchester author of the book about the credit crunch called Whoops! I’ve captured my thoughts in my latest blog post Morality and Banking.