Financial Conduct Authority’s review of banking culture is scrapped

The 'Gherkin' and Canary Wharf at sunrise, as review into Britain's banking culture in the wake of t

The 'Gherkin' and Canary Wharf at sunrise, as review into Britain's banking culture in the wake of the Libor rate-rigging scandal is ditched. - Credit: PA

A review into Britain’s banking culture in the wake of the Libor rate-rigging scandal has been ditched.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said it had decided instead to “engage individually with firms to encourage their delivery of cultural change”.

The move means the watchdog’s so-called “banker bashing” review has effectively ended after only a few months.

The decision comes after the FCA’s chief executive, Martin Wheatley, announced in July his decision to quit the post when the Chancellor George Osborne refused to renew his contract, which was due to end in March next year.

In a statement the FCA said: “A focus on the culture in financial services firms remains a priority for the FCA.

“There is currently extensive on-going work in this area within firms and externally.

“We have decided that the best way to support these efforts is to engage individually with firms to encourage their delivery of cultural change as well as supporting the other initiatives outside the FCA.”

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Earlier this year, the FCA told banks to sharpen up their efforts to learn lessons from scandals such as foreign exchange and Libor rate-rigging, which have already cost them billions of pounds in fines.

The body said companies’ progress in making improvements as part of the review - designed to examine and compare behaviour within the banking sector, including staff pay and complaints procedures - was initially disappointing and improvements “had been uneven” across the industry.

They also often lacked the urgency required given the severity of recent failings, the watchdog said.

But it also said “some progress had been made on improving oversight and controls and benchmarks” following the scandals involving the benchmark rates in Libor - the interbank lending rate - as well as in foreign exchange and gold markets.

A number of banks have already signalled that changes are being made to their operations.

In November, Standard Chartered said it would cut around 15,000 jobs worldwide - although it was not disclosed how many of its 2,000 UK-based staff would be made redundant - as part of a major overhaul.

But the bank said it had no plans to move its headquarters from the UK, given the scale of the restructuring task ahead.

In contrast, the HSBC said it was investigating whether to close its UK HQ in the City, where it has been based for more than two decades.

The Government’s attitude to financial services companies is among the factors involved in deciding whether or not to remain in London, the banking giant - formerly known as Midland - said.

A decision is expected in the new year.

Conservative Mark Garnier, who sits on the Treasury select committee, suggested Chancellor George Osborne may have been behind the move.

“I am disappointed about it. It remains to be seen whether this is a cancellation or a delay but I fear it probably is a cancellation,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Mr Garnier said there was a “difficult balance” between a strong regulatory regime and “over doing it”.

He added: “There has always been this great argument that perhaps the Treasury is having more influence over the regulator than perhaps it ought to and certainly if I was looking for a Machiavellian plot behind what’s happened here and the tone of the regulator then I suppose I would start looking at the Treasury.

“But I equally think that the regulator has a very, very difficult job to do, which is striking the balance between looking after the people who are its members, the financial institutions, and the consumer.

“And it has certainly been widely talked about that the Treasury thought the regulator was over doing it in favour of the consumer and, certainly from my point of view on the Treasury select committee, I thought otherwise.”