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Annual Review 2016/2017

CHAIRMAN’S FOREWORD
DAME COLETTE BOWE

BSB Colette Bowe

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.

Dame Colette Bowe, Chairman

NEXT SECTION: CEO’S REPORT

Senior Managers and Certification Regime

Exploring how the SMCR - and especially Certification - can be implemented in the most effective way across the sector.

The Senior Managers and Certification Regime is a major regulatory change that will affect all banks and building societies. Responding to recommendations by the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, the government and regulators have together developed a comprehensive framework to ensure better accountability and responsibility for behaviour, competence and culture in banks and building societies. The new framework provides an opportunity for the industry to focus on and demonstrate a culture of professionalism. We are working with firms and regulators to facilitate this, including areas where a common approach across firms could support both the objectives of the regime and the skills and development of the people covered by it.

Professionalism

Evaluating whether a more 'professional' approach to banking would improve behaviour and competence across the industry.

The Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards found that 'banking culture has all too often been characterised by an absence of any sense of collective responsibility to uphold the reputation of the industry', and argued that a greater focus on professionalism could be an answer to this. Working with a leading team at the University of Leeds, we are researching the issues around professionalism in banking. In particular, we are reviewing how professional qualifications are currently used across the sector, and at whether a stronger role for professional bodies, along the lines seen in some other sectors, like medicine or law, would help raise standards. To inform this work and develop a rounded picture of 'professionalism' and what it means in banking, we are surveying banks and building societies, professional bodies and a wide range of other interested groups, including consumer bodies and investors.

Assessments

Providing an honest and impartial assessment to Boards of progress against objectives on behaviour, competence and culture.

The BSB assessment exercise presents Boards with an objective and impartial view of their firm's culture, identifying where things are working well and recommending areas for improvement. It draws on information not only from Boards and senior teams, but also from employees, investors (or members), trade unions, customer groups and other relevant bodies. In doing so, it will provide constructive challenge to each firm individually, while building a collective understanding of common issues across the industry, or sectors within it. We undertook our first annual assessment exercise in 2015 with ten firms (Barclays, Citi, HSBC Bank, Lloyds Banking Group, Metro Bank, Morgan Stanley International, Nationwide, RBS, Santander UK and Standard Chartered). The BSB itself will not publish individual assessment reports - each firm owns its own report - but key themes and messages will be set out in the BSB's annual report, the first of which will be published in Spring 2016. Given that Board engagement is central to the assessment work, only firms that have their headquarters in the UK are eligible for the full assessment exercise. All firms, including branches of firms headquartered overseas, will however be included in a focused membership-wide survey, which will allow each participating firm to benchmark itself against its peer group.

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HAS YOUR BANK FAILED TO RESPOND ADEQUATELY TO A COMPLAINT?

If your bank/building society has not responded adequately, or in time, to a complaint that you have already made, you can register your complaint with the Financial Ombudsman Service. Which offers a guide on consumer rights when taking a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

ARE YOU SEEKING GUIDANCE ON YOUR FINANCIAL AFFAIRS?

If you have a problem or query relating to your financial affairs, or are seeking personal finance advice or guidance, there is free, impartial information available from the following organisations:

ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT ACTIVITIES CONDUCTED IN YOUR INDUSTRY?

If you work in the financial services industry and are concerned about any activities conducted by your employer or any other firm or individual, you may find the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority's guidelines on whistleblowing helpful. It explains what constitutes whistleblowing, and what procedures are in place to respond to blow the whistle and how your anonymity would be protected. Public Concern at Work, the whistleblowing charity, also offers support and advice to individuals and employers about how to report concerns and how to establish whistleblowing frameworks.

ARE YOU SEEKING AN INDEPENDENT FINANCIAL ADVISER?

If you are seeking the services of an independent financial adviser, Unbiased may be able to help, or if you are looking for more general financial guidance, the Money Advice Service may be a useful place to start.