The Archbishop and the Chairman of Barclays

The Parliamentary Committee on Banking Standards is making progress towards the sort of public and vigorous challenge to the banking community that was envisaged when this website first called for a ‘truth commission’.

This morning’s session concentrated on Barclays and the extent to which its new regime is having any real impact in changing the culture that developed under Bob Diamond.  It saw the new Archbishop of Canterbury use his knowledge of the City to question the chairman and chief executive of Barclays.

Justin Welby asked Sir David Walker how he would respond, should a new series of relevations emerge on Barclays involvement with the Quataris, at the time when Quatari loans were being used to keep the bank afloat.

He did not get an answer (that would be too much to expect).  Sir David fell back on the excuse that such matters were being investigated by the regulatory authorities and hence he could not comment.

But the context for such exchanges has changed a lot since the days in 2008, when bankers could appear before the Treasury Select Committee and patronise its members – claiming a set of skills and expertise that made them masters of the universe and which MPs, as lesser mortals, could not begin to understand.

The questioning from Andrew Tyrie and other committee members is firm, and challenges cultures, values and behaviours.  The bankers are now very much on the defensive, finding it increasingly hard to hide behind management speak and business jargon.

Coupled with George Osborne’s announcements on a commitment to ‘eletectrify’ the ring fence between investment and retail banking, it has been a good week.   Still too little and much too late (five years after Lehmans) but progress all the same.


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