Here in the UK, the Vickers Commission on Banking Reform is looking at how to reduce risk and increase transparency in the banking system. It’s an independent commission that will report back to the government, and it has been gathering submissions. It’s brought out all kinds of ideas and created an opportunity for a bit of dialogue around what we want out of our banking system. Whether or not it delivers any serious recommendations remains to be seen, and we’d still need the government to act on them, but at least we’re having the debate.
One recent contribution comes from the Good Banking Campaign, a project from the New Economics Foundation and Compass. Their report on good banking asks the simple question of the title, what would a good banking system look like? It’s the results of a consultation between 100 or so banking experts, and it looks at the separation of investment and retail banking, fair taxation of the financial system, and the problem of financial sector lobbyists. It also features a number of topics I’ve written about here, including the Post Bank, ratings agencies, and banker’s incentives.
One key conclusion is that the Vickers Commission doesn’t go nearly far enough, because it hasn’t asked the most basic central question. “It is hard to see how any process of reform can be successful without first answering the question ‘what do we expect the financial system to deliver?'” the report suggests. “The question has not been properly asked, let alone answered, by the government or the Vickers Commission.”
What do we want our banking system to do? Here’s a pretty good summary:
‘To facilitate the allocation and deployment of economic resources, both spatially and temporally, to ecologically sustainable activities that maximise long-term financial and social returns under conditions of uncertainty’
You can read the report here (pdf)