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opinion

It’s time for a new breed of banker

Huw Davies argues that we need not just new banks in the UK, but new bankers

Huw Davies argues that we need not just new banks in the UK, but new bankers

Six years on from the start of the credit crisis there continues to be much soul searching as to what our financial system should look like, what it should do, and how it should behave. There are new faces on the high street, and suggestions that the big banks may be trying to move in a more responsible direction.

But are we seeing enough vision, intent and action? Are banks beginning to meet with the public’s expectations, to restore the trust that has been lost, and improve banking’s position in the tables of least liked professions?   It is clear from Triodos Bank’s recent research that people now place more emphasis on culture and behaviour than they did. The top factors which would influence Britons’ choice of bank now, compared to when they joined their existing bank, are that the bank does not pay big banker bonuses (77%), offers good interest rates (62%), and acts with honesty and integrity (58%). Almost half (49%) say a bank’s ethical practice would be more important to them now – and many people still have no idea of what banks do with their money, despite wanting to know.

“The actions and values of banks have the power to shape our future for good, but only if within them we see bankers with fresh vision, built on values that allow a repositioning of the role of banking in our society.”

Huw Davies, head of personal banking, Triodos Bank

So how do we get banks back in favour and working for the benefit of society, customers and the real economy?

The sector must be socially useful, it must be transparent about how it uses money, and it must behave in a way that puts customers, society, and environment ahead of a pursuit of short-term profit maximization. Until a longer-term view can be held and a broader, more sustainable, purpose established, then will we really see change?

For this to happen, I would argue, we need not just new banks in the UK, but new bankers. Committed, professional, skilled bankers – of course – but bankers who are not just driven by  personal wealth and profit maximization. The actions and values of banks have the power to shape our future for good, but only if within them we see bankers with fresh vision, built on values that allow a repositioning of the role of banking in our society. Starting from authentic values and a positive intent, with a broader societal view, has to be the basis for change and a healthy system. This is what we do at Triodos Bank; we lend only to businesses working to make the world a better place, using only money from our savers, and we show every loan we make for total transparency. It is these values that drive us, not big bonuses (which is why we don’t pay them).

Huw Davies, head of personal banking, Triodos Bank

 

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