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from The Great Debate UK:

Walker review should pinpoint risk

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pippacroney-Pippa Croney is a Director of JRBH Board Consulting. The opinions expressed are her own.-

Big bonuses have dominated headlines in recent weeks, and it is expected that David Walker’s review of corporate governance in British banks, due out on Thursday, will add fuel to the debate. While remuneration is likely to steal the limelight, deeper in the darkness lies a less emotive evil – risk.

Risks, particularly financial risks, have been taken by our most powerful organisations to a disconcerting degree - one that our current corporate governance system and non-executive directors were not able to control. So did non-executives fail to understand the scale of the risks involved, or did they not deem it their responsibility to challenge their respective boards?

Arguably both are to blame. Let’s first consider board directors’ understanding of the risks. Structural issues currently hamper non-executive director’s access to information.  Non-execs are not super-human, but they are set with a phenomenal task - to supervise these vast multinationals with little support, limited capacity and restricted resources, relying almost exclusively on information provided by the executive. It is like trying to gauge the severity of an upcoming volcanic eruption with a thermometer.

Northern Rock: To sell or not to sell?

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Government plans to split and sell state-owned Northern Rock have met with mixed reaction.

The plan is to create a new savings and mortgage bank, called Northern Rock Plc, which will take deposits and offer savings and home loans.

You know things are bad when..

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    You know exactly what the population of Iceland is and can also pronounce the name of its prime minister. Even the word ‘crisis’ seems to have lost its currency. Countries pop up for sale on eBay for 99p and get few offers. Posters on BBC messageboards stop discussing the undulating pitch of Robert Peston’s voice and listen to what he’s actually saying. The speech bubble on Page 3 of the Sun is given over to discussing the credit crisis. Financial market updates displace stories about Jade Goody on the tabloid front pages. Bad news stories from government departments are rushed out day after day and not even the Opposition seems to notice. Estate agents finally admit house prices have fallen but tell you now is a really great time to buy because the market is stabilising. People marketing get-rich-quick property seminars don’t get taken seriously any more. The Chancellor, writing in the Financial Times, says that “now, more than ever, we need new ideas”. Your primary school-aged children know that credit crunch is not a type of biscuit and that IMF isn’t just a fictional organisation in Mission Impossible. You go for a while without noticing one estate agent’s mini and then you see a whole bunch of them on the back of a car transporter. A pensioner on the evening tube train from Canary Wharf gives up her seat to a banker because she reckons he might need it. The Ivy rings to ask if you’d like a table tonight or any night. There are no spare trolleys when you turn up at Aldi to do your weekly shop.

Do you have any better suggestions? All contributions welcome – please send in your selection.

Was a quarter point cut enough?

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bank.jpgThe Bank of England has responded to the credit crunch by cutting interest rates by one quarter of a point to five percent, the third cut in five months.

It acknowledges the risks of stoking inflation but says the availability of credit seems to be worsening.

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