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Sir Evelyn De Rothschild Supports Striking Off Rogue Bankers And Paying Regulators More Money

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SIR EVELYN DE ROTHSCHILD
Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, pictured here at the Earth Awards at Marlboro House on September 16, 2010 | Getty Images

To restore trust in the banking system, financial watchdogs should be paid on a par with traders, bankers who have been found lacking in judgment should be struck off, and bankers should be rewarded with company shares in the place of bonuses.

That's according to one of the City's best known grandees Sir Evelyn de Rothschild. In a rare and wide-ranging interview with the Huffington Post UK, Sir Evelyn also said ratings agencies are "nothing to be proud of", "aren't necessary" and "don't matter".

"What's the purpose of a ratings agency? To assess if you're good or bad; but shouldn't that be done by people working in the institutions?" he asked.

"I've always been suspicious of ratings agencies. We need to get people on board who really know what they're doing. We have complete confidence in our doctors because we know they’ve been well trained – I'm not sure that the ratings agencies truly understand some of the details they're dealing with."

Far more effective for restoring faith in our bankers and the institutions would be a push to remunerate financial regulators better, said Sir Evelyn. He calls for higher wages to be paid to watchdogs to encourage bankers to take them seriously.

"The supervisors should be paid on a level with the people they're supervising, and that can only be done by running some form of overhead or royalty which every financial institution pays into," he said.

"Of course, as soon as you say that, banks say they haven't got the money to pay, but you need to have these people paid on the same level.

"It sounds a little stupid, but years ago none of the referees on football ground were amateurs and unpaid. But they realised that when they were telling people who were on £100,000 a week how to play that they needed professional referees who were paid well so there was respect for the supervisor."

Sir Evelyn also advocates enforcing bankers who have been found lacking to lose their license to act as a deterrent to future wrong doing. This, he says, would inspire confidence in the system more than anything else.

"You see in the papers that these bankers are only punished if they get caught on criminal charges- that's not good enough," he said.

"You should be hauled up if you’re not running the bank according to the standards set by the central bank. If you're not fit and proper to run a pub, you get your license withdrawn; it should be the same with banking."

Finally, Sir Evelyn would advocate replacing sky-high cash bonuses with shares in their employer, a development which would encourage bankers to remain loyal and not become entirely driven by money.

"I've always said the most important thing is job satisfaction but I think in many cases now it's money before job satisfaction – it's why I think bonuses are a bad thing. Look at what happened at Goldman Sachs; it was all money, money, money first – ahead of service."

Technology

The rapid change in technology has also assisted with the reputational decline of banking, in Sir Evelyn's eyes. In his lifetime, he's seen the trading floor change from somewhere you walked across the floor to discuss differentials with fellow traders to somewhere where everyone instant messages each other, managers work by email alone and decisions are made instantaneously.

"The attitude of traders needs to change and we need to be fully communicative. Technology has transformed banking. Everything’s speeded up and done by pressing buttons. The fact that people sitting at one end of the room don't get up to talk to traders at the other end of the room is wrong," he lamented.

"The problem with technology is that speed has taken over – everyone wants everything immediately and the fact you want to deal faster to grab the differential means that they press buttons rather than getting out and speaking to people.

"I'd say to them, do you really think the oil situation is quite like this? Are you sure about this before we decide to short oil? Or do you think that maybe we should wait 24 hours?"

He also feels its detrimental to the management of traders, saying there needed to be a return to the "humanistic relationship in management".

"You should have a weekend away with some golden oldies to take a step back and have a discussion about the direction in which you’re travelling, he said. "I wouldn't want more regulation, but I'd have more training."

And for Sir Evelyn, that training begins at school. "When you consider four year olds can use iPads and that they have computers from the age of six – the question of engagement has to happen long before they get into the financial world," he suggested.

“Schools should teach people what a credit card is, how a mortgage works and so on. By the age of 16, 17, 18 you should understand the practical side of finance."

The subject of education is also broached in Sir Evelyn's recent blog for HuffPost UK, where he discusses how capitalism will look in the future.

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