Cameron Penny is a financial services lobbyist.
Much has been made of the physical changes George Osborne has wrought during his tenure in Number 11: the trim figure, the modish haircut – although wisely he’s avoided Richard Hammond’s approach to dentistry. Mark Carney, on the other hand, arrived ready-made; sun-tanned and dapper as he took the helm at the Bank of England during the summer of 2013.
None the less, tonight’s Mansion House speech isn’t about physical definition but those of power and politics. The Chancellor, freed from the shackles of coalition government, can now set out what a Conservative agenda for the financial services industry will be.
The Governor, meanwhile, will be a in a position to unveil some of the outcomes from the catchily-named Fair and Effective Markets Review (FEMR). Acronyms aside – and how we love those in the financial services industry – the impact of the review will finally respond to public demand for harsher penalties for misconduct. This appears to include an extension of the Senior Managers Regime. The Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) previously focusing this on a smaller group of executives.
Whilst I and others will devour the detail, the wider political ramifications are clear. The announcement of a new law to force this Government and future ones to run budget surpluses, except in times of crisis, will split the Labour party. It will divide those who see the fiscal prudence in such a measure and those for whom it has always been convenient to deny the truth that extra spending, in the absence of organic economic growth, must be accompanied by higher taxes.
Meanwhile, the public will be pleased to see that white-collar crime will be easier to prosecute. In April, Parliament extended the Financial Services Act 2012 to make the rigging of financial benchmarks other than LIBOR a criminal activity. Now the Governor seems poised to recommend that entire markets should also be included in that. This potentially has far-reaching repercussions: after all, nearly 41 per cent of global foreign exchange trading goes through the UK.
The question now is: what happens when the UK’s world-leading regulatory regime collides with the real world? The reality is that suspect activity may well leave our shores – but I’d bet that neither the Governor nor the Chancellor will lose sleep over that.
So tonight the Chancellor will play ‘good cop’, offering the industry a review of the bank levy and outlining the steps by which the Government will end its ownership of RBS. Meanwhile ‘bad cop’ Carney will balance this new, warmer policymaking approach by ensuring that misconduct won’t just mean a fine – it’ll mean jail time for financial services professionals who fall well short of the mark.
Not so long ago MPs were being told that that the “period of remorse and apology for banks” needed to “be over”. Tonight, whilst heralding the vital role that the financial services industry plays in the UK’s growth story, the industry will be reminded that in future ‘sorry’ won’t just be a hard word.