View more on these topics

MPs miss the point but boost their egos

There was something faintly ironic about four of the previously most powerful men in the banking industry being chastised on the naughty step by a group of MPs last week.

Let’s face it, MPs don’t spring instantly to mind as bastions of morality. In fact, I would have preferred to see a debate in the local pub in front of a specially invited audience of ordinary punters who may have asked more perceptive questions rather than resorting to constant interruptions to look good on TV in front of their constituents.

While I believe the not-so fantastic four have some serious questions to answer, this political charade was merely about trying to find someone to blame, and there’s nothing I hate more than the blame game.

We must be careful in our treatment of banks as they are critical to our economy and to employment, as many are finding to their cost right now. I’m not saying we should let them off the hook – far from it – but there were other players in this game.

For example, not long ago reckless upstarts from across the pond were setting up lenders left, right and centre and threatening to blow our traditional banks out of the water. There were big egos in play.

Other culpable parties include the regulators, the ratings agencies, accountancy rules and, of course, our dear old government.

And let’s also look closer to home, shall we? A new breed of mortgage brokers and packagers emerged in those times. Their game was distributing sub-prime mortgages to consumers who could not afford them and earning big bucks for contributing nothing.

These were not old-school professional advisers from respected companies or well established mortgage clubs and networks.

And then there were property clubs – for some a respectable name for shysters and fraudsters. These were property development companies that grossly inflated property prices with dodgy valuers and the odd hooky solicitor.

Then there was us. Look in the mirror and admit it – we lapped it up. We lived the dream. Clients were sitting on bags of equity, borrowed beyond their means and spent like crazy. I can’t count the times I had conversations with clients that ended with them saying something like, “well, if you won’t do it for me I know a broker who will”.

But like Paul Moore, the sacked HBOS whistleblower, I’m not bitter.

Moore’s comment was that “anyone whose eyes were not blinded by money, power and pride knew there was something wrong”.

Deep down, everyone knew it could not last – that the money going around and the crazy figures being earned were unsustainable.

Let’s not blame all bankers for the actions of a few. Not all received crazy bonuses. There were many more average bankers who kept the wheels of finance turning and had nothing to do with increasingly risky trades. And there are plenty of other industries where bonuses genuinely reflect good work and extra effort.

Bonuses as a concept are not wrong and banking as a concept is not evil. All bank workers are not to be lumped in with the few who made reckless decisions. And it should also be remembered that this is not just a UK problem, it is global.

Anyway, for me what’s done is done. The horse has bolted and a bunch of politicians engaging in a display of ego and power will solve nothing.

Rock solid deal results in sticky situation

Having obsessive compulsive disorder is like having a physical form of Tourettes syndrome – one has sudden outbursts of having to do things several times.

As I have had OCD for a while I am used to doing things over and over again. It’s a frustrating feeling, as anyone who has had to redo mortgage applications several times will know.

Where the hell is he going with this, I hear you cry.

Well, first it’s good to see Northern Rock back with a good product at
 4.19% fixed for three years, albeit only up to 65% LTV. If it could just
 stretch it to 75% LTV it would be even better. But it’s a shame this deal is only available through PMS as this means I have to put stickers on three times.

But congratulations to John Malone et al for getting a good product out.

Meanwhile, for all those in need of a bit of marketing assistance Julian Wells’ latest venture could be of interest. Click on www.marketinginnovation-forum.com to access
 Some worthwhile help.

In this market it is important to keep your head above the
crowd and this would be a bad time to relax your marketing effort.

It’s all about working smarter which in turn means working cheaper. You don’t have to be tied in to long contracts
with PR firms and spend a fortune – there are better ways.

Twittering

In my sad attempt to keep up with technology I logged onto social messaging website Twitter last weekend.

It is to blogging what the microwave is to the oven – short, sharp and to the point.

If you see someone you are interested in you can follow them, which admittedly sounds a bit stalkerish.

I am already being followed by my best client, probably because he is fed up of leaving messages for me. He can now watch my every move. But hey Jean-Mark, I’m watching you too.

Recommended

RBS bows to government pressure over bonuses

Royal Bank of Scotland has bowed to government pressure and conceded that there will be no bonuses or pay increases for staff associated with the major losses suffered in 2008.

John Charcol seeks more advisers

John Charcol last week revealed that despite the market downturn and many brokers shutting up shop it is looking to recruit advisers.

Tricks can’t make mistakes vanish

The Monetary Policy Committee’s decision to cut the base rate again to just 1% suggests that our chancellor-turned-Prime Minister has only one trick in his briefcase – the great base rate illusion.

Crunch hit for a six

One broker has taken diversification to a new level by turning part of his office into a specialist cricket equipment shop.

Pensions - thumbnail

Mothers missing out on millions

New HMRC figures show number of ‘mothers missing out on millions’ in pension rights has doubled in two years – Steve Webb Figures published on 24th March by HM Revenue & Customs show a doubling in the number of mothers missing out unnecessarily on vital pension rights because of a change in the rules on Child […]

Newsletter

News and expert analysis straight to your inbox

Sign up