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Do bankers think bankers should be sent to prison for LIBOR fixing ?

As two UBS bankers become the first to be charged for their role in fixing LIBOR rates, what do their fellow bankers feel about white collar crime ? And will it lead to changes in bank culture ?

The majority (52%) of bankers at Operating Board level would like to see those responsible for LIBOR (and other recent scandals) sent to prison – although a fairly significant proportion (30%) would not. I asked the question of 68 senior bankers using audience voting technology at a “Meeting of Minds” conference on 18th October this year, organised by Owen James. There was an audible gasp in the audience when the results played back as the room was surprised at the level of support for prison terms.

This probably shows how angry middle level bankers, along with the public and politicians, are with what has happened. The bankers correctly judged (51% versus 15%) that politicians at the UK party conferences viewed them less favourably this year than a year ago. I heard Treasury Select Committee Chair Andrew Tyrie say that he’d like to see bankers “in orange jumpsuits” at the Conservative Party Conference in October. At the International Financial Centres Forum annual conference in November even the City’s champion Mark Field, MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, said politicians could only stand up for the financial services industry when it has finally cleaned its “augean stables”.

So is it logical to assume that there will be extreme cultural change across the UK’s banks, even if it takes a generation as RBS’ Stephen Hester stated ? Not necessarily, if the senior bankers I spoke to are to be believed. Only 4% of them thought that the culture in banks will change “almost totally” in the next five years – while almost half (43%) think culture in banks will change hardly at all. This shows the scale of the task facing bank senior management, such as Barclay’s Chief Executive Antony Jenkins who pledged that “we need to change our culture” on taking the job in August this year. Depressingly for many people bored with subject, we will be spending at least one more year discussing how to re-build trust in financial services. Happy Christmas !

The research findings :

Q. Following LIBOR and other recent scandals, would you look to see the bankers responsible sent to prison in Britain?
Yes 52%

No 30%

No opinion 18%

Source : Lansons Communications/Owen James. Question asked of 68 senior bankers and executives in companies that are in partnership with banks (virtually all at operating board level).

Q. How much do you believe that the culture in banks will change over the next few years?
Hardly at all 43%

Noticeably 33%

Significantly 20%

Almost totally 4%

Source : Lansons Communications/Owen James. Question asked of 68 senior bankers and executives in companies that are in partnership with banks (virtually all at operating board level).

Q. What do you think the mood amongst politicians is at present towards banks?

More favourable than last year – accepting that banks are changing for the better
15%

About the same as last year 34%
Less favourable than last year – believing banks still don’t get it
51%

Source : Lansons Communications/Owen James. Question asked of 68 senior bankers and executives in companies that are in partnership with banks (virtually all at operating board level).