Feeling the heat: Alex Brummer says RBS boss Ross McEwan ‘must wish he had gone off to Australia last year’
Showing sympathy towards ruthless bankers who delivered nothing but misery to small and medium sized businesses would be a terrible mistake.
Nevertheless, it must be said that Royal Bank of Scotland bosses Sir Howard Davies and Ross McEwan were not responsible for the appalling behaviour of the bank’s defunct Global Restructuring Group (GRG) where one bright spark encouraged managers to ‘let customers hang themselves’.
Most of the executives responsible for disgraceful treatment of clients have flown the nest and remarkably, some of the most senior, are working at the highest level at another UK bank.
The mistake of McEwan and his successive chairmen Sir Philip Hampton and now Davies was to believe that the sordid history of GRG could be finessed and swept under the carpet.
McEwan (who must wish he had gone off to Australia last year) admits that it was ‘not right’ when he claimed in 2014 that the vast majority of firms handled by GRG had been turned around.
In fact only one tenth of the thousands of firms handled by GRG between 2008 and 2013 returned to normal banking.
If RBS were any other bank one might question whether McEwan could weather the storm. But there is no queue of chief executives waiting to take on a bed of nails.
What has emerged from the Treasury Select Committee hearing and the wrangling over the mistreatment of customers at the Lloyds Reading branch, where there was unvarnished fraud, is that the failure of banks to confess and fully disclose past sins is a foolish strategy. It has prolonged the agony and disaffection.
Brummer says the RBS/GRG players, and all those under investigation at HBOS, have had more than enough time to get in their defence
RBS now says the regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, should release the full report by investigators Promontory and finally identify conclusively the offending parties.
Top enforcer Andrew Bailey has agreed but wants to run it past those named first.
The RBS/GRG players, and all those under investigation at HBOS, have had more than enough time to get in their defence.
For the sake of victims there should be no more delays.
When Reuters was sold to Canada’s Thomson in 2008 for £8.7 billion on the eve of the credit crunch, the news agency’s terminals and financial information activities were the jewel in the crown.
Just over a decade on, Thomson Reuters is mulling a sell-off of a majority stake in its finance and risk enterprises to private equity group Blackstone in a deal which would value the business at £14.2 billion.
Buying Reuters on the eve of the financial crisis may not have been the smartest thing the Thomson family has done, especially as it struggled with its technology and has found it tricky to compete with Bloomberg’s dominance of trading chat lines.
Thomson Reuters is mulling a sell-off of a majority stake in its finance and risk enterprises to private equity group Blackstone in a deal which would value the business at £14.2 billion
Latest data shows that Bloomberg has established a lead position among banks and brokers with a 33.4 per cent market share and Reuters trailing with 23.1 per cent.
The bigger question for Thomson Reuters, which earns as much as 50 per cent of its income from terminals and analysis, is what happens next. The customer base for terminals has shrunk along with the number of investment banks. There have been a number of mergers among asset managers (Aberdeen Standard Life comes to mind) and the introduction of European rules – awful Mifid II – has changed the economics for investors buying research.
The fiercest challenge of all will come from technology. There are lots of other choices, from Dow Jones to the FT and Yahoo, for accessing financial data services.
In much the same way as terrestrial television has been disrupted by streaming and online rivals such as Netflix, so it looks likely that newer fintech and streaming technologies will render much existing screen equipment irrelevant.
It might be just the right time for Thomson Reuters to turn away from Wall Street and the City and focus closely on its news gathering and data roots.
Fly a kite
Much joy in the media that the French economy soared by 0.6 per cent in the final quarter of 2017 when the UK stagnated at 0.5 per cent.
As investment guru Neil Woodford tweets ‘0.1 per cent is the difference between flying and near recession’ as the UK is perceived.
And by the way, the jobless rate in Britain was 4.3 per cent in December 2017 and in France 9.3 per cent. Stuck on the runway perhaps.
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