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Dean's Lecture - Dame Colette Bowe

Cass welcomed Dame Colette Bowe, Chair of the Banking Standards Board to speak at the latest Dean's Lecture.

Dame Colette Bowe, Chair of the Banking Standards Board spoke at the first Dean's Lecture under the School's new Dean, Professor Marianne Lewis.

Dame Colette's lecture explored how the banking sector could move on from some of the worst excesses of the financial crisis and explored the extent and limits of regulation to achieve lasting and meaningful change. She discussed what behaviours and standards banks might adopt to go beyond compliance in order to regain consumers' trust and to be seen as trustworthy once more.

She posed four questions:

  1. What are the consequences for a business, or indeed a whole sector of industry when trust is lost?
  2. What are the limits of law and regulation in helping to restore trust?
  3. How we can the right culture and conduct be introduced to and then sustained in the business and whose job is it to that?
  4. What is the right culture actually mean?

Dame Colette said, "If we subscribe to this idea of trust, what we might call critical trust; the form of trust that arises from the knowledge of the competence of an organisation or individual, then of course we can hardly be surprised that there has been a breakdown of trust between the public and financial services sector, which has been extremely marked since the financial crisis that began in 2008.

Dame Colette Bowe – Deans Lecture Professor Marianne Lewis and Dame Colette Bowe.
 © Duncan Phillips Photography

"Although, having been a regulator in the City in the 1990s, there has been a wariness among many of its customers...therefore, many of the issues that we address today do not only have their roots in the financial crisis of 2008."

She spoke about the need for regulation and law within the banking industry, but said that there were limits to the extent to which regulation alone can affect lasting change in the way people run their businesses:

"I think such changes are necessary but not sufficient. I think that it’s a long standing principle in a society like ours that just because something is legal doesn't mean that it’s right; it doesn't mean that it's fair"

The Banking Standards Board (BSB) are trying to understand how banks and their boards are addressing the issues of culture and competence. She said that through continuous discussion and assessment, the BSB can begin to determine what will work for the sector.

Addressing the complexity of the banking sector and the issues they face, Dame Colette said, "The right culture is the one where people do the right thing. That approach has the virtue of great simplicity, but I don't think that should kid any of us into thinking that that means the bar is low. I have spoken about how a very large industry, one of the utmost importance to this economy as but also to the global economy, is taking steps towards addressing these issues towards doing the right thing, but it is enormously complex."

She addressed Cass students directly, saying, "You are the business leaders of the future, it is you that we are looking to, to do the right thing."

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