There have been many discussions on how the financial services sector can rebuild public trust and every time there have been recommendations to develop voluntary consensus standards that set out what good practice looks like. Sir Richard Lambert’s report again sets out a clear role for standards in that journey, which we strongly endorse.
We agree with Sir Richard’s point that it is not the role of regulators to write rules for good behaviour. In the world of consensus standards, what constitutes good behavioural practices is drafted by an independent process with full stakeholder engagement and open public consultation. Such an approach would bring the financial services sector much closer to other industry sectors in their use of business standards as an alternative to regulation.
It is encouraging that the UK’s biggest lenders have agreed so swiftly to sign up to the new Council. Research has shown that those working in financial services are eager for more standards. More than two thirds of those we interviewed last year supported an increase in the role of voluntary standards in the sector, while a similar proportion were keen to see commonly accepted best practices defined for products and processes.
However, the process of creating aspirational standards already exists in the form of the national standards making process, for which responsibility lies with BSI as the National Standards Body. We would be pleased to help the Council work with industry and all its stakeholders to define and develop relevant, meaningful and practical standards in areas where statutory regulation would not work. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. The UK’s processes for developing voluntary standards are well-established, independent and internationally respected. Following this approach would accelerate the Council’s work in shaping and exporting the best of practices in the UK financial services sector.
Dr Scott Steedman CBE.
Director of Standards, BSI