Comment: Lloyds takes pain but big questions remain

Terry Murden. Picture: Julie Bull
Terry Murden. Picture: Julie Bull
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It is not that we weren’t expecting it, nor that the fine was particularly brutal, but Lloyds Banking Group clearly felt deeply wounded by the penalties meted out over its part in the Libor scandal.

A £218 million fine, in the global banking context, is hardly likely to bring the curtain down. Of greater concern is the impact on reputation and trust, two issues that figure highly in business relationships.

While veiled apologies and hand-wringing have become commonplace in the banking industry, the degree of angst and self-admonishment in this case was unusually acute. Lloyds chairman Lord Blackwell and chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio were their own bank’s biggest critics in condemning the guilty individuals. The bank may clawback some of their bonuses. But the buck will stop at those identified.

There was, it has to be said, an element of PR-inspired theatricality about the chairman’s and chief executive’s comments.

They would certainly have been well-rehearsed and the condemnation came wrapped in indignant disgust over how a few individuals had let down the many staff who have been working hard to change the culture and create a cleaner, more transparent and honest bank.

Let’s just say it is a work in progress. So far, promises of banking reform have been superficial at best. Sadly for Blackwell and Horta-Osorio, they will be forced into a repeat performance on Thursday when they are expected to apologise for a further £500m hit on the mis-selling of payment protection insurance. This will run and run.

Lewis may look for a little help at Tesco

ANOTHER business leader charged with trying to rebuild trust and reconnect with the customer is Dave Lewis, who will take on the biggest job in retail when he joins Tesco as chief executive, from Unilever.

There is no shortage of advice being offered to the new boss, one being a need to rebuild morale among staff who have been used to winning but now see Tesco on the slide. Some even expect him to bring back some of the old guard who helped build it into Britain’s biggest grocer. As this is his first big job in retail he may find their advice invaluable.

O’Leary listens and Ryanair flies high

THEY say all publicity is good publicity and Ryanair is a case in point.

The Irish airline is the butt of many a joke, and stories about its treatment of passengers, albeit mainly apocryphal, are well known to travellers throughout Europe.

None of that has stopped it becoming the continent’s biggest budget 
operator. So it must be doing something right.

Even so, its maverick chief executive Michael O’Leary has taken on board some of those comments and responded by trying to improve what even he acknowledges as an airline that is seen as “cheap and nasty”.

Bringing about some fairly simple changes has paid dividends with a sharp uplift in business which is giving O’Leary and his board the confidence to plan further expansion.

He may be unconventional, even clownish, but O’Leary knows what works and what doesn’t.

He has been a little late at accepting criticism of his airline but he will now know that few businesses survive or prosper without listening to the customer and giving him or her what they want.