Are we in the Worst Financial mess seen in 100 years?

Edward Ball, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families recently quoted that “this financial mess is global and as bad as we have seen for 100 years.” It’s obvious that Ed Ball thought he could say it better than Mervyn King the governor of the Bank of England who had already stated that he thought “it was the worst banking crisis since World War One.”  Well now we have them all admitting to the state of the global economy and saying just how bad it is.

Lack of banking qualifications

We need to make sure we never again see our banking system disappearing into the abyss.

We need to make sure we never again see our banking system disappearing into the abyss.

The Treasury Select Committee was today cross-examining the former bosses of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and HBOS (Halifax and Bank of Scotland). Astonishingly when Lord Stevenson, Sir Fred Goodwin, Sir Tom McKillop and Mr. Andy Hornby were asked by the Treasury Select Committee about their qualifications to be the head of their respective banks they all replied that they did not have any real banking qualifications. OMG (Oh my God) had we been hood winked and what qualifications did any of these members of the Treasury Select Committee asking the questions have and was this endemic in today’s world? It certain looked like anyone could rise to the head of the biggest Bank in the UK without banking qualifications.

What a Mess!

The Royal Bank of Scotland bosses Sir Tom McKillop and Sir Fred Goodwin said that the purchase of ABN at the start of the credit crunch with all its toxic debts was a bad mistake. They bought the Dutch Bank ABN at the top of the market and this one deal could have bankrupted the RBS if the government had not stepped in with taxpayer’s money to bail them out to the tune of £38 billion.  The HBOS bosses Lord Stevenson and Andy Hornby admitted that their bank had become to dependent on unreliable finance from the wholesale markets and they had been irresponsible when lending money to property and construction firms

The state of our banking crisis was fuelled by greed, yes greed for company profits, greed for staff bonuses and managed by captains of industry without industry qualifications and willing to take enormous risks.  I am finally beginning to understand why this was the worst banking crisis since World War One.

Apologies from the Knights of the Realm and the commoner

A Lord, two Knights and Mr. Hornby all former bank bosses said that they were profoundly sorry for their respective roles in the banking crisis. It was evident that these men were sorry. But really all these men showed no real signs of contrition as they were questioned by the Treasury Select committee for over three hours. It seemed as though they thought if they apologised they could then have any bonuses and go home.

Banking Gods they are not!

These men seem to have lacked the knowledge and the skill to assess risk and to control their huge, complicated and sprawling banks. They each earned lottery sized incomes each year; they had god-like status in the banking world; collectively they were entrusted with the responsibility to look after their respective banks and to make profits for their shareholders. They risked all and failed miserably, they brought the UK banking system to its knees only to be rescued by the taxpayers.

These men played a major role in the loss of Banking Confidence in the UK and for the gargantuan losses incurred by their respective banks.  They were willing to risk everything for profit. It is a misfortune that mis-management of a bank by its chief executives does not carry a custodial jail sentence in the UK. If these men had owned their respective banks and the government had not rescued them; but allowed their banks to go bankrupt then we would have seen some justice.

Rewarding Failure

I was flabbergasted when I heard that the newly formed Lloyd TSB Banking Group which the taxpayers owned 46% had employed the services of Andy Hornby, the former chief executive of HBOS. He is reported to earn £60,000 per month or £720,000 per year on a consultancy basis. This was pointed out by John Mandel of the Treasury Select Committee and was confirmed by Andy Hornby as being correct.

It‘s little wonder that we are in the midst of the worst financial mess seen in 100 years. Banking staff are under the threat of redundancy due to mergers and cut-backs, caused by the near collapse of the UK’s banking industry.  Surely after the demise of HBOS, the Lloyd TSB Banking Group should be looking for qualified and successful bankers to improve their bank. Not re-employing heads of companies that were responsible for the situation occurring in the first place. The Halifax was after all suppose to be as safe as houses – no pun intended

So what have we learnt?

Nothing it seems on the face of it! We need chief executives of our banks that have the knowledge, capability and the skills to assess risk and to control our complicated and sprawling banks. The banking system needs to be overhauled and it needs to be properly regulated by the Government.

The Government should use its absolute influence in the Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyd TSB Banking Group to stimulate our economy and to protect thousands of bank staff from losing their jobs. These redundancies are due to the merger of Lloyds TSB and HBOS. The Royal Bank of Scotland has already announced that they could axe 2,300 jobs in order to operate efficiently in the current economic conditions.

Finally we need a global regulator with real authority to oversee the global banking system around the world and in each country to make sure we never again see our banking system disappearing into the abyss.

Your thoughts, experiences and comments are welcome. You can join this discussion below and leave your thoughts and experiences.

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  • The Financial Blog

    It made me laugh last night when I saw in the news that the FSA has now recognised the banks where ‘totally irresponsible in their lending’ – it’s a bit late now! What IS the point in the FSA acknowledging facts like this when it’s blatently far too late for the public?

  • Nigel

    Thanks for this article, it was a really interesting read. A very different approach you have taken to the current economic climate. Much appreciated.