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Home » Daily Briefing » Daily briefing - 10 April 2017

Daily briefing - 10 April 2017

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Blowing the whistle on corporate wrongdoing is a thankless task, and the manner in which companies deal with whistleblowing says a great deal about the company's culture, a fact acknowledged this morning by Barclays as it deals with a new incident involving CEO Jes Staley. Barclays said Mr Staley broke the rules on internal treatment of whisteblowers after he tried to identify the writer of a letter who raised issues about bank conduct. In a statement, chairman John McFarlane said: "I am personally very disappointed and apologetic that this situation has occurred, particularly as we strive to operate to the highest possible ethical standards. The board takes Barclays culture and the integrity of its controls extremely seriously." Mr Staley said: "Our whistleblowing process is one of the most important means by which we protect our culture and values at Barclays and I certainly want to ensure that all colleagues, and others who may utilise it, understand the criticality which I attach to it." The FCA and PRA are now carrying out their own investigations, with Barclays saying that Mr Staley will undergo "a very significant compensation adjustment" — otherwise known as a pay cut — once those investigations are over.

The centrality of culture to bank operations came into sharp focus last year when Wells Fargo's treatment of company whistleblowers escalated into a major crisis that resulted in the removal of the CEO. The LA Times notes that a report issued on Friday by shareholder advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services recommended the removal of the entire board of Wells Fargo given the board's failure to exercise oversight which led to "unsound retail banking sales practices". The board is expected to release the results of its investigation into the hard-selling culture that resulted in huge numbers of false accounts being opened in order for employees to reach sales targets. The Wells Fargo story effectively opened the floodgates, with employees at other banks including Canada's TD Bank coming forward to speak to journalists about that bank's sales culture and its treatment of whistleblowers.

The Bank of England has given financial firms a deadline of 14 July to explain how they are planning for the UK's departure from the EU and warned them to be ready for all possible outcomes, including a hard Brexit, reports the UK Guardian. "The Bank wrote to hundreds of banks, insurers and other financial firms on Friday ordering them to get contingency plans in place. The move follows prime minister Theresa May's triggering of article 50 last week, formally launching the Brexit process." In a speech in London on Friday, the bank's governor Mark Carney argued that a decade of reforms put in place following the financial crisis had prepared the UK to play a central role in a new and open financial system which still has London as its global centre. Big financial firms are showing little inclination to hang around and wait to see how the Brexit talks play out, with fears of a hard Brexit driving businesses to decide soon on their next steps.

France is likely to be a beneficiary of a London exodus, and the anxiety over a potential far-right victory appears to be fading somewhat. Still, the April 23 elections will affect not just France but the wider European family. Forbes examines the likelihood of French banks being at risk following the elections, and the impact the vote will have on neighbouring Germany.

Amex and Visa are among the card businesses looking to reset the business of contactless payments, after investigations found that contactless cards can continue to be used even after cancellation, because payments are processed offline. Moneysavingexpert.com reports: "The card scheme says it's "reviewing options" including one which would force almost all contactless payments made on its cards to happen 'online' — meaning retailers must check immediately with banks to see if a card has been cancelled. The news comes just days after Visa, the UK's largest card scheme, committed to forcing all its contactless UK card payments online from June."

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