A real banking inquiry would expose a sector beyond control

Joris Luyendijk writes: David Cameron’s announcement of a parliamentary inquiry into the professional and cultural standards of the financial sector is likely to lead to the worst of all worlds. It all but precludes a genuinely wide-ranging Leveson-style inquiry, while handing this inquiry over to some of the very people who should be investigated: the political class.

The Leveson inquiry is so valuable because it not only digs into the professional and cultural standards of the British media, it also dissects its deeply unhealthy and corrupting entanglement with virtually the entire political establishment. Would a parliamentary inquiry have brought out all that? Imagine the Leveson inquiry headed by Tom Watson or Alastair Campbell.

To his credit, Labour leader Ed Miliband has called for a Leveson-style inquiry. His reasoning was puzzling though, arguing that only an independent inquiry would “restore confidence in our financial services”.

Over the past 10 months I have interviewed dozens of people working in finance in London and if I had to name one thing that this investigation did not do, it is restore confidence. External accountants explained how nobody at the major banks can have a complete overview any more – they have become simply too big. Well before RBS ran into deep trouble, IT consultants painted a truly terrifying picture of banks’ software operations. Forget too big to fail or too big to rescue, IT and accountancy interviewees said. We need to talk about too big to even manage. This former IT expert asked:

“Are so-called chief information officers, the top executives responsible for IT, aware of this? I doubt if they are and if they care. They are managers, skilled in office politics, not technical experts. Most CIOs rarely stay in their post more than a few years.”

Going over the 70 interviews now online here, a picture emerges of major banks whose CEO admiral is really a really well-paid PR operative, tasked with convincing the outside world that he is in charge of his fleet when in reality nobody any longer is.

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1 thought on “A real banking inquiry would expose a sector beyond control

  1. delia ruhe

    Enquiries of any kind rarely inspire confidence. Fixing the things exposed by the enquiry does.

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