Open letter to the new Chief Executive of the British Bankers’ Association

Dear Mr Browne

Golden opportunity to transform a sector that has lost its moral compass

Welcome to your new role as the Chief Executive of the British Bankers’ Association (BBA).

In the wake of all the recent scandals in the banking industry there is a real crisis in consumer trust and confidence, which is at an all time low. We found almost three-quarters (71%) of people don’t thinkUKbanks have learnt their lesson from the financial crisis – up from 61% in September 2011.

As the head of an organisation that represents over 200 banks you are in a unique position to seize the opportunity to transform a sector that ordinary people believe has lost its moral compass.

Fundamental changes are needed to both the practices and culture of the banking industry.  Consumers have bailed out the banks, suffered the consequences of payment protection insurance mis-selling, the scandals of libor rate-rigging and are now facing the prospect of higher fees and charges for current accounts. All the while bankers continue to be rewarded with excessive bonus payments.

Therefore, as you embark on your leadership of theBBA, I ask you to prioritise these five actions to make a real difference to the culture of banking for consumers:

  •  Put customers first – help your members to prioritise customer service in everything they do.
  •  Drive up standards – champion practices that improve behaviour, and push the banks to be more accountable for bad practice.
  •  Establish the BBA as a credible voice – acknowledge the scale of reform and resist pressure to defend the indefensible.
  •  Demonstrate leadership – be positive about reform, and ensure theBBA’s stance doesn’t simply reflect the position of the lowest common denominator.
  •  Up the pace of reform – help the banks to make changes now, rather than wait for the regulator or the Government to force them to act.

These changes cannot be made without leadership from the top which is why your position to influence the most senior bankers in the country is so pivotal.   I hope you will lead by example, working with the banks to take real action to reform their practices, rather than defend the status quo or wait for Government or regulators to impose change upon them.

The time is right for making a positive difference and your appointment presents a timely opportunity for a fresh start for theBBA.  I hope you embrace and push forward the reforms that are desperately needed to turn banking into an industry that consumers can trust, where banks are for customers, not bankers.


Peter Vicary-Smith

Which? chief executive


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