THE BLOG

Regulator Needs to Work Hard to Prove It Can Change Banking

25/06/2013 16:20 BST | Updated 25/08/2013 10:12 BST

Published last week, the long-awaited Parliamentary Commission into Banking Standards (PCBS) final report weighed in at 550 pages and included a long list of recommendations designed to tackle the broken culture in the UK's banking industry.

Which? has long been campaigning for a Big Change in banking to put customers first, not bankers. With this in mind we decided to put some of the PCBS recommendations to the test with consumers. After all it is they who are ultimately at the sharp end when things go wrong - whether that is enduring shoddy service, mis-selling and sky high charges or seeing billions they've paid in taxes spent on bailing out the banks.

The good news is that more than half (53%) felt confident that the Commission's recommendations will lead to positive improvements in banks. Nearly nine in ten (85%) agree that criminal sanctions are appropriate for senior bankers who act recklessly and seven in ten (69%) believe greater support from banks for whistleblowers will help to address poor practice.

What's not so good is to see just how much our trust in banks and regulators is bumping along the bottom.

Only 19% think the banks would be effective at delivering change in banking culture and standards. Unfortunately, the Commission's recommendations rely heavily on the banks to do just that, which is why the regulator must convince the public that if the industry fails it will step in.

Nearly nine in ten people (86%) agree that the Financial Conduct Authority needs to enforce the recommendations because banks can't be trusted to change themselves. However, only half (48%) are confident the regulator will take appropriate action against bankers that break the rules, showing how much work the FCA still has to do to convince the public that it won't follow in the 'light touch' footsteps of its predecessor.

To be fair, senior bankers are now saying the right things about tackling this crisis of confidence in their industry. And the FCA's leadership understands that it must show consumers how it will be a strong, open and proactive regulator to drive the cultural reform we so desperately need. The regulator will have to seize every opportunity to show it can act on problems before they spread and send a clear message that bad behaviour will be not tolerated.

The Banking Commission's proposals could signal the start of the big change in banking that consumers have been crying out for. Now the Government must work fast to get the necessary legislation in place without delay.

Our findings show the banks have a massive job on their hands to win back the trust of their customers. They should accept the changes coming their way and redouble their efforts to focus on their customers. We cannot afford to wait for a generation to see integrity and competition injected back into banking.