Shocks & Stares » BBA H&K\'s Financial & Professional Services Team Blog Tue, 19 Mar 2013 08:00:56 +0000 en hourly 1 The future of Libor – 2 key points from a comms perspective Tue, 14 Aug 2012 09:31:05 +0000 David Chambers On Friday I attended Martin Wheatley’s unveiling of the Government-commissioned review of Libor at Bloomberg’s offices. Wheatley, who will head the new Financial Conduct Authority, gave an hour long speech setting out the consultation. He’s set himself an ambitious task – the deadline for responses is only four weeks away and Wheatley will publish his final recommendations by the end of September.

The speech itself contained a mixture of detail and vision for the future of Libor or its replacement. From a Comms/PR point of view, there were two particularly interesting points:

1. Who Runs Libor or its replacement? At the moment, Libor is run by the British Bankers Association, the trade group and voice for the industry. Some people are concerned that the setting of such a key market metric is being done by what is effectively a pressure group for the industry. Martin Wheatley, it appears, is less concerned – when asked about this specific issue, he stressed that other similar bodies run indices and provide important data. While Wheatley did acknowledge that the BBA’s history may count against it, at present they appear to still be in the running for a role.

2. How much of an effect does Libor have on consumers? As Wheatley remarked, he found it amazing that Libor had become such a big story outside of the financial press, with tabloids, news channels and Twitter all focusing on the story intently. Perhaps he shouldn’t have been quite so surprised – the prevailing distrust of the financial services sector means that the next scandal to be exposed is always going to attract attention.

There’s another reason as well. As the scandal entered its second and subsequent days, the media ramped up mentions of Libor as a tool which “sets mortgage and interest rates” or something to that effect. In some instances this description for Libor became the norm, occasionally replacing the descriptor of “the rate at which banks lend to each other”.

So just how many mortgages does Libor impact exactly? Well, Wheatley confirmed this – 2%, or as the FT reported in June, around 250,000. In a country of 30m homes that’s still a large number, but it may be legitimate to ask whether the press were right or fair to describe Libor’s role as they did given this statistic.

With the short timeframe for the consultation, the media focus on Libor isn’t going to go away. How the media choose to describe Libor could go a significant way to determining Wheatley’s recommendations, and which of them the Government chooses to implement.

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The acceptable face of economic debate? Wed, 04 Apr 2012 11:18:01 +0000 Edward Jones THIS POST IS BY JOSHUA GLENDINNING

Angela Knight, head of the British Banker’s Association, is to step down after five years at the helm of the industry body. Knight has led something of a charmed life in what would be seen by many as an invidious position in an adverse political climate for the financial services sector. While the former Tory MP doesn’t garner respect from all political quarters, she is certainly admired by many within the financial services sector for her ability to speak on behalf of the industry. According to The Guardian, she has given over 800 broadcast interviews, and travelled over 14,000km to and from Brussels alone since 2006. For those working in the City, it has been preferable to have such a shrewd political operator speaking on their behalf rather than having to face the ire of public opinion themselves

Knight’s time at the BBA has been indicative of a broader trend within politics and the media. Despite frequent media brickbats, those within the financial services sector are often far better able to carve themselves positions of political and intellectual authority than many other would-be commentators. Ultimately, the BBA is little more than a lobbying organisation for its members and yet Knight has been able to assume an air of authority within the media which would not be accorded to many others in similar positions.

For example, Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey may have been making political waves this week but he is unlikely to be asked on most news programmes to talk on subjects that don’t explicitly affect his members. (Incidentally, for an interesting insight on the man who appears to have the ability to turn the government and subsequently the public into Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army, listen to Profile on Radio 4). Knight, on the other hand, has been frequently asked to discuss broader social and economic issues, as well as more obvious areas such as the reform of the banking sector.

The financial crisis (or perhaps Robert Peston) has increased public interest in the financial services sector to a level previously unseen. However, outside of personal finance, many commentators in possession of a sufficient degree of technical knowledge are also industry insiders. The adversarial exceptions to this rule (for example, here and here) lack experience at conveying their views to the new audience which has invaded their previously arcane and quiet cloister of political debate. Unlike construction, manufacturing or even many service industries, the products of financial services are almost entirely intangible and the sector is therefore assumed to be too complex or too boring for most people to understand. The upshot is that media discussion is divided between either popular yet infantile anger or sophisticated yet sterile analysis.

‘The acceptable face of British banking’ may not be missed by all, but the reputation she has built for herself is certainly instructive for any company or organisation wishing to make an impression on the media.

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