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Not about the money

A fine of £7.7 million is not a lot for Barclays given their position as one of the UK's major retail banks - to quote Margaret Cole, the FSA's managing director of enforcement and financial crime. Indeed it is the largest fine ever imposed by the FSA for retail failings. 

No, it's not about the money for a bank rumoured to be preparing to pay its boss an £8 million even taking into account the likely £60 million that the bank will pay in redress for customers. 

It’s about something far more serious, toxic and long lasting. It’s about the bank's reputation with customers, staff and shareholders. And it’s just about the last thing that Barclays needed right now.  2010 and 2011 were meant to be all about recovering from the credit crunch, restoring trust and confidence, keeping a low profile and acting the part of a serious contributor to society and the economy with suitably bankerish deeds and words. 

Time to reboot, Barclays.

But why has this come about?

The bank has admitted shortcomings in staff training, oversight of its sales process and a failure to act with reasonable speed to resolve the issue. Fair enough. But is that the whole picture? It is amazing how much behaviour is affected by reward. How much commission and bonus was paid to the sales management as a consequence of selling £692 million worth of funds to 12,331 investors looking for balanced or cautious investments?

There is a solution to this issue. A solution that is available today, that costs a fraction of the fine, let alone the redress. A solution that will actually generate more revenue for the bank and not less, whilst ensuring compliance with current and future regulations. A solution which the bank can use as a repository for its policies, procedures and rules. In one place, with one version of the truth, immediately updateable and auditable.

This system guides users through their customer conversations and ensures that all due diligence, discovery, analysis, cooling-off periods and customer communications take place in the right order and form.

The system also recognises customers, their likely intent and derives the best course of action in the particular contact for the customer and the bank. And, of course this means staying within both the letter and the spirit of the law too.

But people buy from people. It is the people element in this sorry story that is disappointing. Is it really reasonable to expect bank staff, often young and new to the industry, to carry in their heads a comprehensive knowledge of all regulations and situations and never to make a mistake. I think not. And as banks continue to try and reduce costs but hiring cheaper and cheaper staff the situation will only get worse.

So surely the people should be young and friendly, sober looking and trustworthy and smart enough to use a system that has the capability to manage and apply at all times, 7 days a week, without sickness or holiday, the bank's policies which do themselves reflect the bank's policies and the regulators regulations. The best balance possible and happy clients, a clean reputation and no more fines will pay back that investment before you can say Market in Financial Instruments Directive.


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