Anthony Hilton: BBA's stance has won it no friends

Since the financial crash four years ago the British Bankers' Association (BBA) has fought every step of the way against all moves to tighten regulation.

Anthony Hilton: BBA's stance has won it no friends
Anthony Hilton: BBA's stance has won it no friends

Angela Knight, chief executive until just a few weeks ago, has been combative throughout her term of office and indefatigable in defence of the banks' position. It was her constant refrain that while there had clearly been mistakes, any regulatory effort to make banks change their ways risked making London uncompetitive and damaging the economy.

Such has been her profile that Governor of the Bank of England Sir Mervyn King even gave her an honourable mention in his recent Mansion House speech.

Though it is primarily a lobbying association, the BBA also had one other thing in its brief - the oversight of the preparation and dissemination of Libor, the benchmark interest rate at the centre of the current storm. This of course has just blown up in its face, and as a remedy for the problems that have caused such a storm, the BBA suggested last week that the setting of Libor should be officially regulated.

There is a delicious irony in this. The BBA, having argued constantly that the regulation of banking is unnecessary, now freely admits it cannot effectively regulate what should be a straightforward activity.

The BBA pulled no punches in its lobbying and seemed to have few scruples about trying to intimidate journalists.

However, the interesting issue from a comms perspective is whether the banks' position has been made worse because the BBA was too effective.

If it had been less in-your-face and more willing to accept the need for change and suggest ways in which the banks might improve things, it might have won some sympathy. Instead it took the view that attack was the best form of defence.

As a result its unyielding position alienated those who might have been sympathetic. So now that it and its bank members finds themselves friendless, they may well end up in a much worse place as politicians and others regroup to extract their revenge.

Anthony Hilton, City commentator on London's Evening Standard

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