Can we trust the bank(er)s? - Henk Paardekooper

CEO Clubs Int'l in Romania has several strategic partnerships with the Media, offering the opportunity to all the Members to publish articles, presenting personal opinions.

Below you may read the article from Henk Paardekooper, Country Executive Romania and Hub Executive Central and Eastern Europe in RBS
Published on Business Review, June 2014

 

Can we trust the bank(er)s?

 

This month I am celebrating being in banking for exactly twenty-five years. And with fond memories I still recall the moment I first entered the head office building of the bank at the time.
 
That building was a landmark historical building which stood for stability, reliability and trust. The building looked and felt very safe. Exactly as a bank should be. Whenever you look at old historic buildings of banks many were built in this way. The Federal Reserve Bank building in New York, the Bank of England in London, the National Bank of Romania, in Bucharest Old Town. All these buildings, everywhere in the world, are located in the heart and centre of the communities they serve. Historically bank buildings have been located in city centres. Everyday people could see with their own eyes that their bank was still there. Rock-solid, safe and to be trusted.
 
Twenty-five years ago, not only banks’ buildings were trusted and respected, but so were the bankers. The bankers had to live and had to be active in their own community, in the sense of being members of business boards and associations and local chambers of commerce. Because bankers had to develop relationships in the societies they were working for and living in. The banker was like the local village doctor. He advised the people and was highly regarded, respected and trusted. He was a moral compass for his clients. A person of ethics.
 
But at some point, things started to change. Banks started to build modern and ultra-high glass tower buildings, often located outside the city centres in so-called financial districts. It happened everywhere in the world, from London to Paris to New York. The communities that banks were supposed to serve could no longer see them in their city centres. Banks moved away from their core and from their customers. And we know what happened. Eventually it all went wrong. Horribly wrong. The bank buildings did not literally collapse. But the banks did. And the communities had to save them. The same very people who trusted these banks saw the banks collapsing and had no other choice than to save them.
Can we trust the banks now? For this we need to go back to the bankers. Bankers should be people of ethics, obsessed about doing the right thing. To their clients, to the communities in which they operate and to the society at large. The burden of proof to do so lies heavily now on their shoulders, and rightly so. As long as they cannot prove that, they should remain located far away from the communities. Once they have rebuilt the trust, the communities will embrace them again.

*The opinions expressed in this article represent the personal views of the author and do not involve in any way the institutions he is associated with.