Neil Warwick: Are bankers now blamed when it's not their fault?

Neil Warwick of Bond Dickinson believes that labelling the economic collapse a banking crisis is unfair on banking staff

Neil Warwick, a partner specialising in EU and Competition Law at Bond Dickinson
Neil Warwick, a partner specialising in EU and Competition Law at Bond Dickinson

There have been many consequences as a result of the worst recession in the western world in a century. Some are obvious. Some are less so.

One of the less obvious consequences has been the effect of using euphemisms to describe the recession. Rather than describe the sheer terror of almost total financial meltdown in stark terms, commentators refer to the recession as the banking crisis.

Perhaps it is understandable to describe horrific things in softer, more benign, language in an attempt to make them seem less frightening.

However, the repeated use of the term banking crisis has led to the unintended consequence of bankers being blamed for everything.

The headlines at the weekend blaming bankers for the rise in food banks seemed particularly harsh. Without a doubt some of the systems in larger banks, particularly the bonus systems, may have encouraged reckless behaviour.

The vast majority of bankers, including everyone working in banking in the North East, have, like the vast majority of people, just got on with doing their jobs.

It is therefore perhaps time to stop looking backwards and blaming bankers for every ill in the world and start looking forwards to see how working with bankers can help avoid another recession.

It is certainly unfair to label the vast majority of hard-working banking colleagues in the North East as the people who created the recession.

Recessions are the product of boom and bust cycles, usually because a particular market became overheated; ie, too many people invest in a market believing the price can only go up, ironically driving the price to an unsustainable high before the bubble bursts, bringing the market crashing back down.

Recessions are also a product of historical cycles and to a greater or lesser extent repeat every five to six years, meaning that there should be another dip towards 2018.

Quite often the North East does not get affected as badly by a second financial dip in a decade. Sometimes this is because recovery tends to be slower in the North East.

It is also because the North East has a great track record in collaboration, particularly between the public and private sector.

This time around we should look to the third sector to see, working with colleagues in banking, if there are new models for financial delivery.

It is possible that new forms of investment could be delivered to new types of businesses particularly social enterprises. However, it will be important to deliver new investment in a viable and sustainable way.

Just because a new business may be ethical it does not mean normal lending rules ought to be relaxed. As the banking industry is best placed to make investments, it could play a key part in helping to future-proof the economy of the North East.

Neil Warwick is a partner in EU and Competition Law with Bond Dickinson

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