Frankly, banks – it’s time to give a damn about your image

Ten years on from the credit crisis, things still aren’t looking good at two of our biggest financial institutions

Another week, another chance to take a kick at the banks, which are collectively showing very few signs of wanting to improve their image a decade after the financial crisis.

We have results from Barclays, which is the first time the bank has had to face the City since the unveiling of a date for its criminal trial – of ex-chief John Varley and three former colleagues – on charges concerning the way the bank raised billions of pounds from Qatar in 2008. Anyway, block January 2019 out of your diary.

The newish Barclays boss, Jes Staley, will have been primed by his lawyers to duck this week’s questions on that, so instead the City might take its first chance to grill him on his attempts to unmask an anonymous whistleblower, when Staley took a literal interpretation of Barclays’ old marketing slogan: “It’s our business to know your business.”

Which brings us to rival Lloyds Banking Group, which also has results this week and is currently in trouble over its response to the long-running scandal in corporate banking at its HBOS Reading arm (two former employees convicted). There, the bank took the opposite approach to Staley and ignored inconvenient accusations from its customers for years. Which just goes to show, these bankers are damned when they do and damned when they don’t.

Changing channels

It is a week of channel-hopping for the City’s media fans, with a packed schedule from the broadcasters.

First up, on Wednesday, we have interim numbers from ITV – which is in a state of flux having just confirmed the appointment of Carolyn McCall as its first female chief executive.

McCall, formerly of this parish, will join on 8 January from easyJet, where she has been chief executive for seven years. She will replace Adam Crozier, who left the company last month.

On the following day come full-year numbers from Sky, which is playing a key role in a corporate drama of its own with culture secretary Karen Bradley deciding whether to ask the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to investigate Rupert Murdoch’s bid to take over the group.

Then comes BT, which has ambitions of playing in the broadcast space, although it has yet to establish enough of a reputation to compete with its two rivals for airing fictional drama. Except when it comes to some of its accounting, of course. BT is still reeling from January’s news that financial mismanagement in Italy had been worse than thought, increasing the bill from £145m to £530m.

Summer results rush

Apart from the banks and the media companies, there is a lot more to keep the City busy this week. Among the major firms reporting results are: the pharmaceuticals giants GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca; British American Tobacco and booze group Diageo from a related sector made up of other legalised drug pedlars; plus International Airlines Group, Reckitt Benckiser, Royal Dutch Shell and Anglo American from assorted other lines.

This all looks like an outrageous imposition on the financiers of the Square Mile, particularly those of a certain age who were brought up on the City axiom “Sell in May and go away” – a licence to bunk off work during the summer (only dressed up as investment advice) and instead attend client meetings at Lord’s, Henley, Wimbledon and Ascot.

Anyway, the City used to have permission to return to work after St Leger day, which, for those of you with jobs that don’t involve getting kaylied at sporting events, is typically held on the second Saturday in September. Then came a change in the listing rules. In the old days companies with June year or half-year ends could wait until September to report. No longer. Like many things in life, this barbarism is being blamed on the Americans.


Simon Goodley

The GuardianTramp

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