This report is the first of its kind.
This is not simply because it reports on the Banking Standards Board (BSB) during the first year in which it has been open for membership. It is also because it paints a picture of the banking sector based on views from the more than 28,000 people working in banks and building societies across the UK who responded to the BSB’s Employee Survey, as well as from the hundreds who gave their time in focus groups and the many executives and non-executive board members who gave their views.
There are, as our Review shows, many examples of good practice and positive developments across the sector, and of firms and individuals committed to serving their customers well and raising standards of behaviour and competence. At the same time, however, there are areas where change is needed, and where deep-rooted attitudes and behaviour detrimental to the interests of customers and clients (as well as the majority of people working in banks and building societies) still exist.
Responsiveness, accountability, personal resilience and openness are all areas where, looking across the sector, progress needs to be made. Firms need to speak honestly and bravely about what they need to do, what they are doing, why they are doing it and how they will know they are succeeding. And they need to do this not just around the board table or in senior executive meetings, but with everyone in the firm; and everyone in the firm needs to be able to see that executives and board members live up to what they say they are trying to do.
Actions speak louder than words; they also need to be saying the same thing. What is encouraging, however, is that the work reported in these pages, both assessment and policy-related, has happened in the first place. The fact that it has, is not the result of something having been done to or required of firms, but of the firms involved having chosen to participate in order to learn more about and manage their own organisational cultures. I know from my own discussions with the boards of many BSB members, that the leaders of all the banks and building societies that took part in the 2016 Assessment across the UK are committed to a deep understanding of its findings for their firm and to developing, or reinforcing, cultures that serve the interests of their customers, members and clients.
Neither this Review nor the BSB Survey it reports on are one-off events. Over time, our annual survey will provide evidence of firms’ progress (or lack of) in ensuring that their culture works for customers. Successive surveys will also cast light on where the BSB’s own efforts should be focused, for best effect.
For the coming year, and as this Review describes, the BSB’s priority themes in its policy and assessment work will include: the alignment between a firm’s values and the way it does business; creating a culture of responsibility and accountability; and fostering personal resilience and wellbeing among employees.
Addressing each of these challenges will not be quick or simple; nor will raising standards of behaviour and competence across the sector. We are at the start of what will be a long haul. To keep heading in the right direction, we need an understanding of the culture of banking that is based on evidence, and a clear picture not only of what is happening now and what is changing, but what all the people who are working in banks and building societies are trying to make happen in the future.
Our thanks go to all of those who have participated in this work over the past year, and to all the firms who have committed to raising standards of behaviour and competence across the sector through their membership of the Banking Standards Board.