Sympathy for the Devil

Written by: Mike Laven
Published on: July 05, 2012

Sympathy for the Devil

The tipping point has been reached – banker bashing has gone too far. The hysteria and portrayal of the “despicable” individuals that work in financial services is yet another story that the media has spun beyond the realms of reality and reason.

Sure, there are unscrupulous and venal individuals in the industry, but no more than in any other. Labeling all bankers as evil incarnate, motivated by greed, is ridiculous. The “99%” are ordinary hard working people that live down your street, that take days off to attend their kid’s sports day, that would rather be at home with their family then jumping on a private jet for a hedonistic all-nighter in Monte Carlo.

I have never met anyone in the industry like those that have been described in the press of late. The attacks on the culture and, more worryingly, individuals and groups, is creating a sideshow that is stealing the focus away from the real issue – how to change financial services for the benefit of the customer and the UK economy.

It is not the fault of individuals that financial services is failing. The industry is not structured in a way that suits today’s business and consumer needs. We should not be focused on demonising people who are typically as honest as the rest of us. We should instead be looking at the wholesale change to banking structure, and business models therein, that is needed to improve customer service, transparency, trust and to lower costs.

A movement is already under way. We are living in an age where change in the management and delivery of financial services is occurring at lightening speed. However, it is not the legacy banks that are at the forefront of this evolution, nor the policy makers and regulators that are simply applying cheap sticky tape to gaping fractures. It is “New Finance” that is gaining momentum; entrepreneurs and small businesses that are leveraging technology to address the fallacies of the system and to improve the industry for you, I and our businesses.

Perhaps the current hysteria will finally be the catalyst to encourage customers to vote with their feet, as that is ultimately what is needed to make change happen. It is astounding that 85% of business banking and a similar proportion of consumer/retail banking is still conducted with the 4 major UK banks.  In a recent survey conducted by the Payments Council, 2 out of 3 people in the UK said they were still loyal to their bank despite the brand and trust destruction the industry has suffered over the past few years. Over the five years to 2010, 80,000 customers switched their banking provider – that’s less than  1/8th of a percent  of the 64 million+ accounts held in the UK.

Competition, innovation and a re-focus on the customer is the key to improving the practices in financial services and to deliver better services, fairer services, for consumers of financial products. Rather than holding  all bankers to account, lets drop the hype and focus on the real and practical change that can cement an era of New Finance. The power is in the hands of the customer – you must embrace the new, alternative, cheaper, more transparent providers of financial services and thus feed the seeds of a better system. Break your ties with the banks, forget any preconceptions you may have and look to New Finance firms to fulfill your financial needs.