“No apologies. No restraint. No shame,” says the Independent. “Super-rich bank boss Diamond defiant,” says the Daily Express. And the Daily Mail’s comment column on his appearance before MPs is titled: “A victory for greed that imperils us all”.
Those headlines might make uncomfortable reading for some of us but Mr Diamond is clearly made from sterner stuff, showing, perhaps, how he has achieved what is estimated to be a £100 million fortune and multi-million pound annual pay package.
He’s made a remarkable success of his career and that’s to be admired. But the man or woman in the street, who may have lost their job, their home or wonders what the future holds for them financially, thanks to the consequences of some risky decision-making by the banks, may find his comments a little hard to swallow.
Mr Diamond told MPs: “The biggest issue is how do we put some of the blame game behind us? There was a period of remorse and apology for banks – that period needs to be over.”
There are some who may be thinking that period should never be over: that the misery and economic uncertainty of the last few years should be a reminder set in the stone for the banks that they need to do better by their customers.
It’s a lesson that the taxpayer-owned Royal Bank of Scotland and its NatWest subsidiary do not yet seem to have learned. Yesterday, the Financial Services Authority fined them £2.8 million for failing to deal properly with customers’ routine complaints.
At the same time, there have been reports that RBS's chief executive, Stephen Hester, is to get a substantial bonus for his work in 2010. Mr Diamond’s own response on his bonus was to say: "I haven't been offered a bonus yet…I would discuss [waiving] it with my family."
At a time when it would seem appropriate for the banks to show some sensitivity and understanding towards their customers and the country as a whole, as they seek to rebuild battered reputations, many will be thinking that not much has, in fact, changed in their approach. And if not much is changing, what’s to stop the turmoil of recent years happening again?
Perhaps they would agree with John Mann, the Labour MP for Bassetlaw, as he responded to Mr Diamond: “You are in denial about the taxpayers' support for you; denying a lack of competition in the industry; you're denying customer satisfaction; you're denying the lack of support for small businesses... the emperor is wearing no clothes."
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