Academic applauds CMA’s decision to investigate banks


By Joe Mellor, Deputy Editor

A senior academic has shown his approval of the CMA’s decision to investigate High Street banks over a lack of competition.

The big four High Street banks, which provide 77 per cent of current accounts and 85 per cent of business lending, may ultimately be forced to divest businesses and allow new competitors.

Dr Steve McCabe, economist, lecturer and active researcher from Birmingham City University’s Business School, said: “Learning that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has suggested the big High-Street banks may need to be broken up proves that urgent action is needed to address the mess that was caused by them, resulting in the global financial crisis that many of us still suffer from.

“Since this happened, banking reforms have moved at snail’s pace, if at all. The money that has been injected into the banking system through so called ‘quantitative easing’ has been effectively swallowed up and has not led to the funding of small business investment that is so desperately needed to assist in the recovery.

“We as personal customers are led to believe that we are doing well because we still receive ‘free’ banking. However, following a year and a half investigation into a sector that is worth £10 billion we discover that the banks we put so much trust in are finding more inventive ways to charge us in other ways; most especially through the almost zero levels of interest and sometimes absurd charges elsewhere.

“If you owned shares in RBS and Lloyds prior to the credit crunch they are probably worth less than when you bought them due to the appalling strategic decisions made by the executives. The Competition and Markets Authority are absolutely right to call for reform.”

However, the British Bankers’ Association has argued that now is not the time to investigate competition in the banking sector, as the introduction of new technology (such as mobile banking) and making it easier to switch accounts, has helped to open up the industry. Additionally, there has also been the emergence of competitors such as Tesco, Virgin Money and TSB.

A full-scale inquiry would take about 18 months to complete.


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