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April 26, 2013 9:17 pm
Parts of the City of London have been infected by “a culture of entitlement” Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, argues on Saturday.
He says bankers should be required to pass exams to raise professional standards.
The archbishop, a member of the cross-party banking standards commission, also says “serious consideration” should be given to creating a professional banking body, similar to the General Medical Council, to enforce standards.
His comments herald an intense debate about how to clean up behaviour in the City as the commission, chaired by Tory MP Andrew Tyrie, prepares to publish its final report next month. While the archbishop was speaking in a personal capacity, his support for formal training and examinations for bankers and the possible creation of a new professional standards body has wide support on the commission.
“Banks are incredibly complicated things,” the former oil industry executive said. “The idea that people can hold hugely responsible positions in them without any kind of formal training seems to a number of us to be quite surprising.”
He says a professional standards body, linked closely to the regulator, was “worth serious consideration”. The British Bankers’ Association has said its members would fully co-operate if the idea was taken forward.
The spiritual head of the world’s 77m Anglicans says morality in British business is “in many ways much, much better than at many times at the past”, citing crackdowns on insider trading, conflicts of interest and sex discrimination.
But he adds: “In banking, in particular, and in the City of London a culture of entitlement has affected a number of areas – not universally by any means – in which it seemed to disconnect from what people saw as reasonable in the rest of the world.”
The archbishop also echoes the concerns of Sir Mervyn King, departing Bank of England governor, that some banks were still carrying a lot of bad debt and may require further taxpayer recapitalisation.
“Part of an ethical approach is transparency and reality about recognising where you are,” he tells the BBC’s Week in Westminster, warning that the taxpayer may have to intervene to clean up the banking system. “The lesson from Japan is if you’re going to bite the bullet it’s better to bite it sooner rather than later.”
Dr Welby also believes an unnamed big bank – some have assumed he means Royal Bank of Scotland – should be broken up and turned into a series of regional banks. The Treasury does not share that enthusiasm.
However George Osborne has promised to incorporate into draft legislation proposals from the banking commission, and its advice in many areas could be hard to ignore. Apart from the archbishop, its members also includes former Tory chancellor Lord Lawson.
Dr Welby says tougher regulation will never be enough to eradicate bad behaviour in the City but says he hopes that people working in the Square Mile will follow Christian teaching and work for “the common good”.
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