Nearly three-quarters of people surveyed by Which? do not think banks have learnt their lesson from the financial crisis
Five years on from what is considered the start of the credit crunch – dubbed “the day the world changed” by the former boss of Northern Rock – the public are more disillusioned with the banking sector than ever, a consumer group has claimed.
Nearly three-quarters – 71% – of people surveyed by Which? do not think banks have learnt their lesson from the financial crisis, up from 61% in September last year.
Consumers have low expectations for a parliamentary inquiry into banking ethics, with only 26% confident that it will lead to positive change among the UK’s lenders.
The survey was published on the fifth anniversary of the start of the credit crunch, the subject of the now well-known phrase from ex-Northern Rock chief Adam Applegarth.
On 9 August 2007, the final wake-up call to the world’s banking system occurred after many early warnings over the toxic nature of high-risk mortgage debt.
“Sub-prime” was about to enter the vocabulary.
France’s biggest bank, BNP Paribas, had been forced to suspend three of its funds with major exposure to bonds backed by US sub-prime mortgages – it was unable to value them because the market for these products, or “securities”, had dried up completely.
Default levels among high-risk US borrowers had soared as the US Federal Reserve hiked interest rates to 5.25%.
This shattered confidence in the bonds, which were used by most banks as collateral for the commercial paper they used as a source of short-term funding.
There had been early signs of the crisis – notably the first-ever profit warning from HSBC in February and the collapse of two Bear Stearns hedge funds exposed to high-risk mortgage debts in July.
But BNP caused other banks, concerned by the possibility of more bad debts coming out of the woodwork, to cut back on everyday lending to each other by hiking their own interbank rates – and so began the credit crunch.
Since then, the economy has suffered two recessions and consumers have been hit by a series of bank scandals, which have further exposed the broken culture and mismanagement in UK banking.
Which? chief executive Peter Vicary-Smith said: “Five years on from the beginning of the financial crisis, public confidence in the banking industry is at an all time low, with a series of scandals exposing mis-management and corruption at the very heart of the banking system that have cost UK consumers dear.”
In the wake of 9 August 2007, heightened inter-bank lending rates, along with the closure of the mortgage securities market, placed the finances of Northern Rock under intolerable pressure.
The way the group financed itself, “a reckless business model excessively reliant on wholesale funding” according to MPs, had been caught short by the credit crunch.
Panicking customers queued to grab back their savings and the UK’s first bank run in 140 years was under way.
The Rock – the fast-growing banking success story of the past decade – was on the road to nationalisation, a £27bn taxpayer bailout and a huge political embarrassment for the government.
Many of the UK high street’s biggest names – such Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland and Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS) – have been forced to raise billions of pounds in extra capital from their shareholders to shore up finances.
Since the crunch, house prices have fallen, consumer confidence has plummeted and prices and unemployment have risen.
The Bank of England slashed interest rates to 0.5% and has held them since at the historic low since March 2009 and has also pumped £375bn of emergency cash into the economy to kick-start recovery.
But the economy continues to falter as the country struggles to grow under the tough austerity measures drawn up by chancellor George Osborne, in a bid to reduce the national debt, and pressure from the debt crisis on the continent.