The recession of 2007/08 seems like a long time ago now, but its impact is still felt. My dad has always used the cockney rhyming slang of ‘merchant banker’, I let you figure it out yourself. My opinion on banking as a profession has clearly been influenced with my experiences, not just from the recession but from my further exposure, whether it be films, documentaries or articles.
A recent article which caught my eye on this subject was the headline ‘Cash, cruises and sex parties: inside ex-HBOS manager’s £245m scam’ by the Guardian. Of course I expect the hyperbolic rhetoric from the newspapers, but as I read about this case and did some wider research I realised that time has only numbed our perception of the banking system and indeed bankers themselves. This case is called the Scourfield scandal referencing Lynden Scourfield, the then a lead director of the HBOS’s impaired assets division. In the recent court trial the jury heard lurid stories of parties held in a London flat, which prompted one sex worker to comment on Scourfield’s movie star looks (sadly for him, Danny de Vito). They also heard how, apart from funding the evening entertainments, Mills also applied to have a second card on his American Express account, which was issued under Scourfield’s name. Through holidays, internal deals and laundering a total of £245 million was taken from the public and put in the pockets of the individuals involved.
This specific case highlights my main point that the perception of bankers was always going to be negative and to some to degree always has been, what we now see however is the reputation of the profession itself in ruin. This case has highlighted how the internal processes of banking have resulted in corruption, exploitation and illegality.
Unlike some I don’t believe that a nationalised system of banking is the solution but I do believe that strong regulation is necessary to stop wide spread recklessness but also the independent crime we have seen in this case.
It is easy for the banking system to illustrate detachment from the idea of real money and real people. I believe this is partly due to the modern process of banking which consists of numbers, algorithms and computer systems. This is why some bankers, not all, but some don’t have the clarity that this is peoples money and peoples lives. This is similarly why people are angry, whether it be the liquidation of Northern Rock and others or the illegality of individuals of this case the homes, money and family of the British people are being used in a game of monopoly where jail is not often a big risk.
Anyway after such a negative blog I feel like I should also mention an upbeat anecdote.
I did go into the bank the other day and in front at me was an elderly lady who asked me if I could check her balance. So I pushed her over. Sorry not sorry.