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Blog series – Gillian Guy

In advance of our event at the Bank of England on 21 March 2017, we asked interested parties to write on the theme: Worthy of trust? Law, ethics and culture in banking…

In recent years there has been a lot of talk about how to rebuild trust in the banking industry. That this discussion is going on is a good thing. But there comes a point where there has been enough talk. There’s a risk that we keep agreeing with each other about how important it is to do something, while customers continue to struggle with a service that doesn’t give them a fair deal.

Last year Citizens Advice helped 2.7 million people face to face, over the phone and through webchat, on a whole range of issues. Over 350,0000 of our clients had issues with debts and financial services. And beyond that, countless numbers of the other issues we help with – from benefits and tax credits, to employment issues and consumer problems, will have involved interactions with financial services.

Day in, day out, we see the impact of banks’ behaviour on our clients’ lives. And we see the corrosion of trust with every failure – when the phones are busy, and branch staff ill informed; when services are difficult to navigate, and the small print impossible to understand; when customers are directed to products that aren’t right for them, and not signposted to the ones they need.

It is very welcome that the industry has taken the first steps to engage more closely with their customers. To better understand the complexity of vulnerability. To develop strategies for changing culture and building trust. But more needs to be done if we are to reduce the number of people coming to Citizens Advice who have been let down by poor service, mis-selling or bad practice in the financial services sector.

That isn’t something that can be put right with a vulnerability strategy or the launch of a new inclusive product. The industry will fail to win back the support of the public if it only adds these things around the edges. We need a wholesale change of mind and change of heart. This is why I welcome – and am pleased to play a part in – the BSB’s work to develop a better understanding of the culture of banking. To identify the areas where deep-rooted attitudes and behaviours are detrimental to the interests of customers.

My challenge to the banking industry is to make sure your actions speak as loud as your words – at all levels of your business. Customers will only feel the difference when changes in culture, conduct and ethics are displayed as proudly on the front line – whether that’s a branch, a call centre or online – as in carefully drafted strategy documents. When that has been achieved, we can start talking about banks being worthy of trust.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive, Citizens Advice


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.


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.


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.



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.


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:


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.


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.