Robin Fieth, BSA CEO, highlights the opportunities for building societies, credit unions and other financial mutuals to stand out as distinctly different, truly purpose driven and dedicated to meeting the needs of their member and communities. This article was first published in Society Matters magazine.
Reflecting on the biggest and most successful BSA Annual Conference in many years, it seems appropriate that much of our focus was on the biggest and most challenging themes facing us all in this turbulent and unpredictable world. Here are four from my Conference speech:
On the UK’s commitment to achieving Net Zero by 2050, do we green our own balance sheets by restricting lending to homes and properties that achieve the magic, if flawed, EPC A to C rating? Or do we invest in the UK’s overall just transition to Net Zero by working with all households to reduce carbon emissions? Do we in fact put the greatest emphasis and direct the greatest effort to supporting those living in the oldest and energy-leakiest properties?
Having brought forty years of EU financial services legislation and regulation into UK legislation, what happens next through the Future Financial Services Framework Review and the Financial Services and Markets Bill announced in the Queens Speech gives us all the opportunity, and I believe the obligation, to review that enormous array through the lens of what works best for the UK and for our objective of positioning financial mutuals at the heart of the future of UK financial services (which we would argue is the same thing). This is the opportunity to set an appropriate and proportionate UK regulatory framework for the next forty to fifty years, creating and leaving a positive legacy for future generations, fulfilling our stewardship obligations at a systemic as well as individual firm level.
Ronald Reagan is quoted as saying that one of the scariest phrases you can ever hear is, “hello, I’m from the government and I am here to help.” Something of this sentiment strikes me when it comes to the regulation of diversity and inclusion in financial services, reinforced I must say by the latest guidance from the FCA for listed companies, published in April. Taking a simplistic quota driven approach to gender and ethnic diversity on public company boards falls so far short of where our aspirations should lie. We need to celebrate the real power of difference, embracing all aspects of diversity. What we measure, and especially how we assess cognitive and socio-economic diversity is critical. As too is how we ensure that the resulting executive and non-executive teams are truly inclusive in how they work, how they encourage and embrace different perspectives and viewpoints, and how regulatory supervision supports (and doesn’t undermine) all this.
Even in the few short weeks since the Conference, the crypto story has entered a new chapter, with the high profile collapse of Terra Luna, wild fluctuations in the price of Bitcoin and lots of commentary questioning whether crypto-currencies really have any enduring role in society. I wouldn’t be so quick to write them off, but it will be interesting to see how the recent turmoil affects Government and Bank of England thinking about the benefits or otherwise of a UK Central Bank Digital Currency – and if we are to have one, how it will operate in practice.
With the challenges come the opportunities – for building societies, credit unions and other financial mutuals to stand out in these debates as distinctly different, truly purpose driven and dedicated to meeting the needs of their member and communities. Big challenges, even bigger opportunities!
You can view Robin's speech at the Building Societies Conference here.