Business

Viewpoints: The challenges facing the new Bank governor

  • 27 November 2012
  • From the section Business
Mark Carney

The appointment of Mark Carney as the new Bank of England governor has been generally welcomed.

However, with an expanded brief which includes overseeing the health of the country's banks, it will be a tough job. Here a selection of experts give their opinions on what Mr Carney's key priorities should be.

Andrew Sentance, PwC

I see three challenges facing the new governor.

The first is that Mr Carney is taking over a Bank with greatly expanded responsibility, which is a big management challenge and means the governor will need to delegate more.

My view is that he can't do all the things he did in the past and therefore the Bank's deputy governors will need to be more involved in taking the lead in their particular areas.

Secondly, the Bank needs to move away from the current environment of very low interest rates and quantitative easing policy.

It has been helpful in the depths of the financial crisis but is not healthy in the medium term, for example in terms of returns for savers.

Mr Carney needs to develop an exit strategy towards a more normal world, communicate it and implement it gradually.

This could play to Mr Carney's strengths as he has won praise in the past for his communication skills.

Thirdly, the Bank has a role as a key player in the financial services sector in which confidence has been hit hard. There are new regulations to help banks build enough capital.

But the more general issue for the Bank of England is to be able to work with the financial sector to rebuild public confidence. Some of the statements from the current governor (Sir Mervyn King) have been confrontational.

I believe the new governor needs to build a collaborative style, working together with the government and private sector to rebuild trust.

Ann Pettifor, Prime (Policy Research in Macroeconomics)

I'm very concerned because he is a private banker by training and wants to reinforce, not transform the existing global banking system.

He is quoted as saying that he doesn't believe threats to the economy from the banking system are systemic. Instead he puts the crisis down to failures in culture, or individuals.

So he does not believe in making structural changes to the banking system - changes called for by, amongst others, Paul Volcker - but simply wants to tinker with regulations that reinforce, in his words, the current global system. I think these views are one of the reasons that Chancellor George Osborne has appointed him.

My view is that Britain's economy needs a banking sector that acts as servant, not master of the economy.

Firms need an increased supply of affordable credit.

Mr Carney has said he is concerned about low rates. If so, then I fear for British firms, who face costly rates of borrowing. Mr Carney has also said that the problem is not the failure of banks to supply credit, but demand for it. I find this alarming as he is essentially misunderstanding the challenges facing the UK and global economy.

Frances O'Grady, TUC

I see three key priorities for Mr Carney.

Firstly, helping to grow the British economy and creating more jobs. Employment is no longer the prime mission of the Bank, but creating more and better jobs must be a priority.

Secondly, Mr Carney has already spoken about helping rebalance the British economy between the financial sector and the rest of the economy, but he also needs to look at rebalancing the differences between the regions, and the discrepancy between profit and wages.

UK businesses are sitting on £750bn of profit - equivalent to half of GDP - which currently is not being used to hire more people or increase wages.

If wages do not increase, demand will continue to fall.

Thirdly, and absolutely crucially Mr Carney needs to increase lending to the real economy.

There have already been a number of initiatives, none of which have worked.

Mr Carney needs to think imaginatively about monetary policy as quantitative easing doesn't guarantee that loans go where they are most needed.

There is a case for cutting out the middleman (banks), and setting up a vehicle which lends directly to small and medium-sized businesses.

Such a scheme would probably be cheaper than pushing money through the banks which have proved not fit for purpose.

Adam Marshall, British Chambers of Commerce

As the Bank takes on greater supervision of Britain's financial services sector, and in particular our major lending banks, the new governor needs to ensure that its policies help companies in the real economy, not just those in the Square Mile.

Financial services firms are a very strong component of the UK's economy, but Mr Carney needs to consider businesses of every size and shape.

A constructive thing that Mr Carney could do, and something we at the BCC have been calling for for some time, is to contribute to the creation of a British Business Bank.

Mr Carney's native country Canada has had a similar institution helping small and medium-sized businesses for 65 years, and this has been a critical launch pad for many Canadian firms.

Mr Carney should work to strengthen the Treasury's current efforts in this area, as a way of transforming the finance environment for new and growing British businesses over the long term.

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