Britain’s big banks have clashed with other financial sector entities on the question of leading Brexit efforts when it came to lobby the government. This is important as a failure to fashion an united front can damage the British financial industry. This industry comprises the country’s biggest export sector and also provides highest amount of taxes. British banking is at present trying to retain its access to the European single market.
The sector includes investment banks, retail banks, insurers and asset managers. There is a fear that the sector will lose almost all rights as the British government starts to negotiate the country’s exit from European Union. Top executives of the 10 biggest UK banks are concerned about conflicting industry voices which they believe will weaken discussions with the government. Gerald Walker, CEO of ING, put this into words when he said that disjointed discussions translate into the appearance of different bodies desiring different outcomes.
Sometime ago, a group of senior executives, with Shriti Vadera at its helm, was set up a few days post the Brexit vote so that it can represent the views of asset managers, banks, insurers and brokers. Vadera holds the chairmanship of the British division of the Spanish financial giant, Banco Santander. In September, this group was blended with TheCityUK after fierce protests from smaller investment banks, firms and trade bodies. The latter felt they would not be represented properly if government held separate talks with the bigger banks in other group.
Financial firms’ discontent
Financial firms also added to the confusion by disagreeing between themselves on which organizations gets to meet ministers of the government and the subject to be prioritized in talks. There is a feeling that every member of the group believes that the financial institution has the unique understanding to speak for the industry as a whole. Indeed, a CEO of the UK’s largest banks is reportedly frustrated that Theresa May, the Prime Minister of UK, had a meeting with leaders of American banks but did not carve out the time to consult their British counterparts.
It is fair to say that international banks having a substantial presence in London were also irritated as there was no invitation for talks with the British finance minister. That meeting was attended primarily by the British financial institutions. They demanded to let them have fruitful discussions with top ranked civil servants attached with the Treasury.