I get The Mail every Saturday morning. I hate buying newspapers as many readers know, I prefer to get my news feeds from Google Reader and feel buying papers is outmoded. However, as long as The Mail continue to have six pages for TV and Radio for each day of the week on Saturdays, I will continue to buy it.
In this week’s edition, Max Hastings has an article stating that it is not just “Fred the shred” who is guilty for our problems, but a whole raft of other bankers as well.
I am mindful of a sign on the desk of the President of the United States. It reads, quite simply, “The buck stops here”. I would hazard a guess that our Prime Minister does not have a similar sign anywhere in Downing Street.
Let’s look at the responsibility issue. In the mid twentieth century when there were very few rules and regulations, and nobody appointed to oversee the behaviour of bankers, a bank manager was a pillar of the community, respected by all. A bank manager had gravitas, he wasn’t some snotty nose kid who one tends to find as a local bank manager nowadays. A snotty nose kid because all the local manager’s power has been removed to “area” level and above. The present breed of bank manager counts very little apart from paper-clips.
Now consider the FSA. This body was established by Gordon Brown to oversee and check on all in the Finance Industry. An industry I am reasonably familiar with as my wife has been an executive in a company who has trained people in this industry for a couple of decades.
Yes, we all know that the FSA has fallen down on the job, and – no doubt – will continue to make a mess of things. The question is here: “Do we need the FSA?”. This implies a further question: “Can we rely on bankers to govern themselves?”
I have mixed feelings about this. I subscribe to the theory that the reason why the bankers have fiddled whilst Britain collapsed is because they weren’t responsible for the “checking” of the industry. The FSA was responsible! So the bankers fiddled whilst and where they could as the FSA would take the blame. If we hadn’t had the FSA, may not the bankers have kept to the same patterns as they did in the mid twentieth century?
Put a child on his honour and he will behave himself, up to a point. But put him under the supervision of his elder brother, and the younger will see what he can get away with and there’s no “up to a point” here!.
So to come back to my earlier point, where does the buck stop? With the bankers? With the FSA? Or with the “man at the top”.