New UK banking standards chief won't be 'a poodle'

LONDON (Reuters) - A new standards body for British bankers must not be "a poodle" for the industry and should improve and monitor culture so banks can benchmark their performance, the man tasked with setting it up said on Thursday.

Richard Lambert, the former director general of the Confederation of British Industry, said the role of the banking standards body will not be to punish wrongdoing, but aim to provide "a canopy" under which standards should rise.

"It's not going to say to the bad guys you're never going to eat lunch in this town again. That's the job of the regulator," Lambert said at the British Bankers' Association annual conference.

Lambert was appointed in September by Britain's biggest banks to design and chair a body to monitor standards, after a series of scandals rocked confidence in the industry. A panel of lawmakers recommended the panel be set up to help reform the industry.

Lambert said a key measure of the body's success will be whether it can still make a difference to the industry when the furore over recent banking scandals dies down.

"The task will get harder in 5 or 10 years time when the terrible events of the last few years have been forgotten and bank leaders no longer feel quite as committed to this sort of idea. When things are easy and the world is back to normal that will be the test for this outfit," he said.

Lambert said he was still working on how the body will work, but he wanted it to have an assessment panel where individual banks would be benchmarked on issues such as training, how familiar staff were with values, feedback from customers, or how it dealt with whistleblowers.

The body will be funded by banks, but Lambert said it was essential it was independent of them.

"Its independence and governance set up is crucial ... it must not be seen as a poodle. If it's not going to be taken seriously by the banks we might as well pack up and go home now," he said.

Lambert said he expects to put forward proposals on how the as yet unnamed body should operate by next summer.

(Reporting by Steve Slater and Matt Scuffham)

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