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Greed caused the crisis

by
27 November 2015

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From Mr John M. Edwards

Sir, — As a retired lending banker, I believe the crisis in banking (News, 13 November) was almost certainly not as a result of “good people blindly following” bad practice, as is claimed by HSBC’s Head of Business Banking, but was caused, rather, by the actions of those in more senior positions who chose to ignore the basic canons of sound lending in pursuit of sales-orientated targets.

Those good people working in branch banking were under great scrutiny by their elders if sales targets were not achieved, while those involved in “bread and butter” banking, i.e. lending, were pressed ever harder to meet “stretching but achievable” targets that very often resulted in a more relaxed interpretation of the principles of lending.

The arrival of various Standards Boards is to be welcomed (in addition to the Banking Standards Board, there is also the Lending Standards Board, plus the Chartered Bankers Professional Standards Board), but I just wonder whether the credit crisis might have been avoided had bankers been better trained and less greedy.

Studying for and passing the examinations (degree standard) of the Chartered Institute of Bankers was in my time in banking (1964-99) a necessary precursor to obtaining a managerial position. Moreover, I and my contemporaries observed the motto of the Institute, namely “Probus et Fidelis”!

JOHN M. EDWARDS
32 King Edward Avenue
St Anne’s-on-the-Sea FY8 1DP

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