Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Myth of "Banking Qualifications"

It's a great rallying call for modern credentialism, isn't it, from last week's Private Eye:

Q: Who is the odd man out from the following list?

Lord Stevenson, HBOS; Andy Hornby, HBOS; Sir Fred, RBS; Sir Tom McKillop, RBS; John McFall, MP; A strategically shaved badger, MP & Treasury; Sir Terry Wogan, everywhere.

A: Terry - has a banking qualification.

Well, well.  The great and the good.  Unqualified for the positions they find themselves in.  And I sure Sir Terry doesn't even have a BA in Radio Presenting, or even an NVQ2 in Modern Music Analysis.  Edited to add: And, of course, Ian Hislop's degree is in English Lit, not in Journalism, so he is clearly unqualified to be the editor of a satirical news magazine and should quit with immediate effect.

What a load of fatuous bollocks.

Back in ancient times, when I ran a banking team, it was very highly qualified, had an extensive training budget, and everyone was a full member of at least one professional body (normally the BCS).  None of us had a "banking qualification".  

Q: Why ever not, you complete fraud?

A: Because we weren't providing banking advice to customers, numbskull.

In fact, we once sent back a whole bunch of business cards because they had the "will only give advice on our own products" FSA disclaimer on the back - and we pointed out that if we were giving advice on any financial products, we were so far outside the rules, the disclaimer wasn't going to help.

There is nothing wrong with banking qualifications and for the people at the customer-interacting level, they are to be encouraged.  There is nothing wrong with working your way up within a business - from the shop-floor to the boardroom.  Equally, there is nothing wrong with being in a more specialist area - law, accountancy, IT - or being a generic business manager - and getting to board level.

Let's just look at the Chartered Institute of Banking in Scotland and their "Chartered Banker" Qualification:

  • Professionalism and Ethics
SECTION A - CORE SUBJECTS (Candidates must complete at least one credit from this section)
  • Retail Banking
  • Business Banking
  • Building Society Operations
  • UK Financial Services
SECTION B - CORE SUBJECTS (Candidates must complete at least three credits from this section)  
  • Financial Management 
  • Business Law
  • Financial Economics
  • Management Strategy and Leadership 
In addition to the 5 credits achieved by completing the compulsory elements, candidates must complete a further 6 credits from Sections A, B and C.

Half Credits
  • The Compliant Person and Regulatory Risk
  • Credit Risk Practice 
  • Private Banking and Wealth Management
  • International Business 
  • Customer Relationship Management
  • Operational Risk Management 
  • Project Management
  • Money Laundering 
  • Financial Crime 
Full Credits
  • Corporate Finance
  • Managing People 
  • Marketing and Selling Financial Services
  • Call Centre Management
  • Investment 

Now, is this really the level of qualification you would require in somebody at board level?  I am not saying that none of the modules would help but, compared to, say, an MBA and appropriate experience?  Just what in this would have given Sir Fred, or whoever, the insight into international interconnectivity to predict the US mortgage security debacle?  Why is it now considered necessary for you to have a qualification for everything?

I mean, the only qualification necessary to be an MP is that you wore the right colour rosette?


Anonymous said...

I have a law degree would it help in becoming an investment banker

Surreptitious Evil said...

Would it hurt?

Investment banking is either, if you believe the myths (and not all myths are untrue) all about being able to predict which way the market will jump and getting ahead of them and selling out just before they turn, or, if you believe Nicholas Taleb, all about luck.

Either way, a law degree will / should /might have taught you how to follow complex and incomprehensible rules, a scepticism towards information pushed at you and, unless you are American, a fair slice of critical thinking.

Certainly, it hasn't taught you much about punctuation - so don't worry about a career as a proof-reader (and please, please, not as an English teacher.)

I suggest you read "The Black Swan", "Fooled by Randomness" and "Liar's Poker".

Then think about a real career - you are 2 down with one chance left, in my opinion.

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