Sorry isn’t the hardest word for banking bosses

The banking bosses responsible for bringing Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS to their knees have each made a full and frank apology for their role in the financial crisis.

MP John McFall, chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, opened the session into the banking crisis by asking the former bank bosses whether “sorry was the hardest part.”

Lord Stevenson, former chairman of HBOS, says: “There has been a lot of talk about the ‘s-word’ and you have given me the opportunity to repeat what Andy [Hornby] and I said to our shareholders at the extraordinary general meeting that we are profoundly and unreservedly sorry at the turn of events.

“Our shareholders, all of us, have lost a great deal of money, including of course a great deal of our colleagues, and we are very sorry for that.”

He adds: “There has been a huge anxiety and uncertainty caused, in particular for our colleagues, and also for periods of time for our customers. We are sorry for the effect it has had on the communities we serve.”

Sir Tom McKillop, chairman of RBS echoed the comments, adding: “We were particularly concerned over the serious impact on shareholders, staff, and indeed the anxiety it caused to customers.”

The senior banking executives were also grilled over why warnings over excessive lending from both the Financial Services Authority and the Bank of England dating back as far as 2007 seemed to go unheeded.

Sir Fred Goodwin, former chief executive of RBS, denies that warnings weren’t heeded but argues instead that nobody could have anticipated the extent of the downturn.

He says: “As you can imagine I’ve gone over this time and time again in my own mind as to what was the point we should have seen things differently.

“I keep coming back to the view that while we didn’t think it was going to continue forever, at no point did anyone get the scale or the speed of the slowdown.

“For the market to turn in the way it has and so profoundly and globally has caught everybody out and was not possible at the time to envisage.”

The three bosses, alongside Andy Hornby, former chief executive of HBOS, are appearing in front of the Treasury Select Committee as part of a wider inquiry into the banking crisis.

The hearing will take evidence tomorrow from executives from Lloyds Banking Group, Barclays, RBS, Abbey and HSBC.