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BSB Professionalism Forum

Sir Brendan Barber, Deputy Chairman BSB


The first Professionalism Forum took place on 23 May 2017. Read Sir Brendan’s comments after the first Forum and see the attendee list.

The purpose of the next phase of the BSB’s work on professionalism is to identify how the recognised potential for professional bodies and other qualification providers to play a significant role in raising levels of competence and ethical behaviour in the sector, can be realised; this will also include consideration of the role of professional qualifications. Consistent with its role of helping the sector to raise standards of behaviour and competence, the BSB intends to facilitate and support progress on professionalism, working together with firms, professional bodies, qualification providers and other relevant parties. To help it do this, the BSB will establish in May 2017 a new Professionalism Forum and associated Working Group chaired by Sir Brendan Barber.

Sir Brendan brings a wealth of experience to this role. He has been the Chairman of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service since January 2014 and was a founding non-practitioner member of the BSB board, before being appointed Deputy Chairman of the BSB in March 2016. He previously served as the General Secretary of the Trade Union Congress from 2003 to 2012 and sat on the Court of Directors of the Bank of England from 2003 to 2012.

Commenting on his role, Sir Brendan has said:

‘Fostering professionalism across the banking sector is essential if public trust is to be restored and the many thousands of committed, hard-working staff in the industry are to be recognised. I look forward to working with firms, professional bodies, qualification providers and others to explore how all parties, working together, can play a full role in raising standards of competence and behaviour across the banking sector.’

Proposed membership of the Forum and associated Working Group will include BSB member firms, professional bodies in the banking sector, other training or qualification providers and subject matter experts (as well as, in an observer capacity, the FCA, PRA and FICC Market Standards Board).

In undertaking this work on professionalism in banking the BSB recognises the importance of ensuring that any proposals developed by the Forum are relevant, meaningful and effective for employees, customers and broader society. As such, the BSB also plans to meet with a range of organisations including trade unions, HR professionals, consumer groups and others.

The Forum is intended to have an action-oriented and facilitative approach; supporting work that is already underway or planned, exploring areas where new initiatives or impetus would be helpful, and identifying collectively how progress can most effectively be made. Where appropriate, proposals will be developed and published for broader consultation. Equally, where new initiatives are identified that are consistent with the Forum’s direction of travel but can be taken forward by individual or groups of Forum members, these should not need to wait for the Forum’s overall work to conclude before getting underway.

If you would like to learn more about the BSB’s work on Professionalism or to get involved, please contact

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.