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A Banker Speaks

18 minutes
First broadcast:
Friday 14 October 2011

These days we hear a great deal about banks and all the trouble they are in but we very rarely hear from senior bankers.

That's perhaps not surprising when you consider all the challenges Europe's banks have faced in the last few days.

First the Franco-Belgian banking behemoth Dexia was put out of its misery. Dexia has a balance sheet of over 500 billion euros making it the biggest victim of the eurozone crisis to date.

Then the European Banking Authority suggested a big boost to the amount of capital Europe's banks need to hold - perhaps as much as two hundred billion Euros. That's a lot of extra money to find.

Meanwhile, the ratings agencies have downgraded more European banks and, to cap it all, Europe's banks will be at the centre of discussions as the G20 finance ministers meet.

So what do the bankers have to say for themselves? Justin Rowlatt interviews Clark McGinn who until very recently was a senior banker at a very large British bank - Royal Bank of Scotland. Mr McGinn retired earlier this year and so can - perhaps - speak freely. You judge for yourself.

Whether you think the bankers are to blame for the financial crisis or not, the fact remains that out there in the real world people are living with its effects.

In Europe governments are struggling to rein in their expenditure and reduce their debt and companies are trying to adjust to the new environment.

We all know the consequences of these austerity measures - jobs are going, pensions will be cut, spending trimmed.

That means difficult decisions for the people in charge - and the rest of us too. So how do you make these tough calls?

Allan Leighton has had to make all sorts of difficult decisions first as boss of the British supermarket chain Asda and at the British Royal Mail - where he was responsible for sacking thousands of workers.

Now he's written a book about making these kinds of difficult decisions. Justin Rowlatt asks him whether any of us really need a whole book to tell us what to do once the decision has actually been made.

Now, this episode of Business Daily is - as always - packed full of interesting insights and reflections on the current economic situation, as I hope you'll agree.

What is very unusual - even on this programme - is for someone to actually propose a solution to the problems. Well today our regular commentator James Srodes does just that. He's got an unexpected answer to all our economic woes.


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