It was great to sit down with Maggie Pagano of the Independent last week for a quick lunch to discuss my passion for banking reform, and why it is absolutely vital that we hold the big banks to account for their reckless behaviour during the financial crisis.
As I said to Maggie, the banks are too big. They are less competitive than 20 years ago and building up so much leverage again I fear we are heading for another crash. They are culpable and they must change their ways.
Our financial services and banking sectors are so vital to our economic growth, but it is important that we have a vibrant competitive market, not least for consumers. Over the past decade the number of banks in the UK has halved to 22, whilst the gross assets of the big high street banks have increased almost four times.
We have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to introduce competition by making four to five new banks from the various stakes owned by the taxpayer through UKFI – stakes in Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, Northern Rock and Bradford & Bingley.
We've also got to improve lending to small businesses. Access to capital for business is vital if the UK is to grow, but customers are still finding it hard to get loans. Far more should be done to make other forms of finance more accessible. County councils should be encouraged to set up new credit unions; ISAs could be used for venture and investment trusts to raise capital for small business; and financiers should be looking at creating modern versions of the old guild or livery companies for specific industry sectors. And more could be done to open up the Government's new Green Bank by allowing in new private investors, high street banks as well as foreign banks, thus giving it access to the wholesale markets.
I am optimistic about the opportunities ahead of us to reform the banking sector, and to make it work again for consumers, but we’ve got a lot of work still to do.
Read the full interview with Maggie here.