Stephen Jones, CEO, UK Finance
With the second quarter well under way – and a hint of Spring in our step – I’d like to take a moment to deliver a brief snapshot of some of the varied and challenging work under way at UK Finance.
Since March we have launched a review into the dispute resolution landscape for SMEs; announced a joint action-plan to raise awareness of banking services available at the Post Office; responded to ministerial correspondence around the gender pay gap; reported on last year’s industry fraud data and IFABL figures; published a paper discussing blockchain as a solution to unblocking customer identity in a digitised environment and also offered a blueprint for financial services’ firms to work together to combat cyber risk. Last week we hosted UK Finance’s annual mortgage lunch where I spoke alongside my colleague Jackie Bennett about many of the initiatives under way in this area. The event was a great success, and I was delighted to see so many of our members there.
All this against the backdrop of our Brexit work – as we work with industry, regulators and Government to effectively secure a successful withdrawal from the EU. For my part, this has included giving oral evidence to the Exiting the European Union Select Committee in a session focused on the implications Brexit will have on the financial sector. On another occasion, I spoke alongside Kwasi Kwarteng MP about the free movement of financial services, at a recent dinner hosted by the Industry Parliament Trust.
Putting customers’ interests first
UK Finance has commissioned an independent review of the scale and complexity of banking complaints from SMEs which will focus on disputes between financial service providers and small business customers that have remained unresolved through regular internal complaints procedures. The review is chaired by Simon Walker CBE, former Director General of the Institute of Directors, using a combination of academic research, stakeholder evidence and international comparisons to identify best-practice solutions for the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) landscape in the UK. The review is expected to conclude this Autumn, and we look forward to co-ordinating new initiatives that arise from its findings in due course.
At the end of March, UK Finance announced a joint initiative between the banking industry and the Post Office, responding to a request from the Economic Secretary to promote awareness of the day-to-day banking services available at the Post Office. The banking industry will be working with the Post Office to utilise its customer reach and to promote the banking services available over the counter – especially to those living in rural or urban communities with less bank coverage. Activity will commence through localised and targeted media campaigns and community outreach initiatives from the Summer of 2018.
Fighting fraud and cyber crime
Fraud continues to be an issue that affects society at large, and the finance industry is working together to play its part by investing in advanced security-systems as well as improving standards for dealing with victims and deterring criminals. Fighting fraud and cyber-crime is an ongoing strategic imperative for UK Finance.
On 15 March, we published our annual fraud update for 2017 − showing that banks and card companies prevented £1,458.6 million in unauthorised financial fraud last year – which is equivalent to £2 in every £3 of attempted unauthorised fraud being stopped. While unauthorised fraud loss fell by over five per cent to £731.8 million, new annual data collated for the first time shows £236 million was lost to authorised push-payment scams in 2017.
UK Finance is supporting the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) on its complex work to combat these authorised push payment scams (APP) and is providing secretariat support to a PSR-steering group set up to fight financial crime. The group focuses on the delivery of a safer environment for customers − and conversely, a more hostile one for fraudsters. Meanwhile, the Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign continues as an ongoing movement which involves much participation and collaboration with banks and finance providers, with planning for the next phase of the campaign now under way.
We recognise that the validation of identity is a major requirement for the finance sector to conduct business and transact in an increasingly digitised economy, and have worked with the Whitechapel Think Tank (WTT) to produce unblocking identity in a digital world − a paper which explores the use of Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) as a possible solution to safely validating identity in a regulated environment.
I was pleased to attend a breakfast briefing in Parliament this week, hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Wholesale Financial Markets and Services, and was joined by Ciaran Martin, the Chief Executive of the National Cyber (NCSC) who spoke about cyber security – a policy area we will continue to be heavily involved in on behalf of members. Earlier this week we published a report on staying ahead of cybercrime – which discusses the need for greater cooperation between businesses, firms, law enforcement and Government as central to tackling this growing threat.
Brexit negotiations continue to provide a backdrop to many of our conversations with policy makers, regulators and stakeholders. The FCA has announced its priorities for the year with its EU withdrawal work taking priority.
In addition, the FCA has emphasised that its work on culture and governance; financial crime and money laundering; technological regulation; application and resilience; and the treatment of existing customers compared to new customers is closely mirrored with UK Finance’s own focus and that of our member firms. Together we will continue to work to ensure that banking and financial markets can operate safely and transparently, and that public trust and confidence in the industry continues to improve under a lens that promotes fairness to customers.
Events and training that deliver and reward
It’s just over a month until the Personal Finance Conference takes place on 22 May at the Banking Hall in London. The event offers an annual update on changes in personal finance and will explore themes around the implementation of Open Banking and PSD2, the opportunities for innovation and the importance of educating and protecting customers and their data.
The agenda will include keynote speeches from senior banking leaders who are currently shaping the industry’s transformation − alongside John Glen, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Jayne-Anne Gadhia, the CEO of Virgin Money and Alison Rose, CEO of Commercial and Private Banking at RBS to name but a few – in what promises to be an engaging discussion on ‘The New Personal Finance’.
Also coming up on 1 May is the Invoice Finance and Asset Based Lending Annual Conference in Leeds, which enables firms who provide finance and support services to client businesses to share the latest insights and knowledge in a collaborative business environment with peers and colleagues.
The Conduct Risk and Culture Academy for Retail and Wholesale banking launched successfully in March and April and will run over a four-month period with buoyant attendance on both cohorts and attendees now in full swing, addressing the conduct and risk challenges faced in a regulatory environment. There will be an opportunity to book onto this again for the next cycle in the Autumn.
Thought leadership, expertise and integrity
UK Finance is a signatory to the HM Treasury Women in Finance Charter and last month we provided written evidence for the Treasury Committee Inquiry explaining the ways in which we plan to support gender equality within the financial services sector. This includes encouraging members to sign up and promoting gender equality as just one aspect of Diversity and Inclusion policies.
In addition, we responded to Ministerial correspondence on the Statutory Pay Gap Disclosures requirement − due by 5 April − and arranged for members to meet with Government Officials to discuss some of the pertinent issues. We also responded to the UK Financial Reporting Council (FRC) consultation on revisions to the UK Corporate Governance Code, and extended support to proposed changes to the Code in support of building diversity at Board and executive-pipeline level.
I look forward to sharing further insights with you in the coming months and welcoming you at one of the many events planned over the coming months.