Bankers’ reputation takes a new hammering

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Nine out of ten Britons would trust the scandal-hit banking industry more if bad bankers were struck off, a consumer group’s survey has found.

Despite moves by banks to change their culture and become more customer-focused, Which? said its findings suggested the reputation of the industry had slumped further in recent months, with fewer people thinking that bankers acted ethically now than they did even in the wake of the Libor scandal.

Just 6 per cent of people it surveyed believed bankers acted in their best interests – down from 9 per cent when research was carried out last summer, soon after the Libor rate-rigging scandal broke.

As the Parliamentary Commission into Banking Standards prepares its final report on the industry, 93 per cent of more than 2,000 people surveyed across Britain said their trust in the industry would be increased if bankers were struck off for wrongdoing. Three-fifths of people thought it was unlikely a banker would lose their job if they lied or cheated.

The commission was set up to look at standards and the culture of banks and to make recommendations for action.

British Bankers’ Association chief executive Anthony Browne said the industry’s “number one priority” was to restore trust and confidence in the sector. He said: “This survey confirms just how poorly bankers are held in the public’s esteem right now and the scale of the challenges facing the industry. We understand why people are angry, which is why the banking industry is embarking on an unprecedented programme of change.”

Which? wants to see bankers forced to comply with an independent code of conduct in a similar way to doctors and lawyers. Some 86 per cent of people it surveyed agreed such a code should be compulsory and 78 per cent said consumers should have an input into the rules.

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said: “It’s damning that fewer consumers think bankers act ethically now than they did immediately after last summer’s Libor rate-rigging scandal, when we thought the reputation of banking had hit rock bottom.”