New report: “Representation of the public interest in banking"

Date published: 5 December 2016

Press release

Today Finance Watch releases a new report entitled “Representation of the public interest in banking”. The report asks what blocks the public from participating in deciding what banks do and how they are regulated; it goes on to outline numerous policy proposals gathered from debate with wider civil society.

Download report (PDF): “Representation of the public interest in banking” 

The report is the culmination of a two-year research project with civil society and launches with a public conference in Brussels on 7 December 2016.

Christophe Nijdam, Secretary General of Finance Watch, said:
Despite the infusions of large amounts of public money into large financial institutions and the ongoing implicit state guarantees provided to the global financial system, the public interest continues to lack formal representation in banking. This report addresses that problem.”

Dr. Duncan Lindo, co-author of the report, said:
Regulation has become long and complex, both in the regulatory process and the rules themselves, and is really only accessible by technical experts who sit closer to banks than to ordinary members of the public.
Blockages to participation and interest representation in banking come from many places. The public faces obstacles in collaborating and applying pressure, not least in fundraising, while Europe’s banks remain dominated by 30 or so TBTF banks whose failure continues to menace our economy and which enjoy considerable advantages of coordination and funding.”

The research project, which began in 2015 and is a joint initiative between Finance Watch and the Hans-Böckler-Stiftung, was conceived as the tide began to turn on post-crisis banking regulation. The hopeful talk of 2009, reflecting the public’s desire for change, has faded and while many pages of regulation have passed, little has fundamentally changed. Now the agenda is moving on and the opportunity to revive ‘boring banking’ is giving way to a revival of dangerous pre-crisis practices. In the last days, Finance Watch has drawn attention to the worrying lack of ambition in the European Commission’s latest EU banking reforms.

Aline Fares, co-author of the report, said:
The project builds on a combination of desk research and participatory workshops. We gathered more than 60 academics and representatives of civil society organisations over the two years, in London, Brussels, Berlin and Paris. Our intuition was immediately confirmed that we were raising a fundamental question and that “non-experts” from civil society have a legitimate stake in the debate: they have a lot to say and need such safe spaces to talk about banking and finance in their own terms, to share and develop knowledge and to build up proposals and strategies. We hope further collaborations will follow, even though more capacity and funding is needed to make this happen.”

The project also inspired a blog series featuring guest authors from among the workshops’ participants. The project hopes to build on initiatives such as the Citizens’ Dashboard of Finance, which aims to create a space where the public can inform themselves about the impact of finance on society and pool ideas for a new vision of the financial sector.

Christophe Nijdam said:
“Banks need the consent and trust of society - a social licence - to operate but that licence is in urgent need of repair. The overview provided in this report will prove a starting point to restore public interest concerns to the governance and oversight of banking, where they have been under-represented for too long.”

The proposals developed during the workshops and outlined in the last chapter are designed to trigger new initiatives and to serve as inspiration for civil society organisations, public institutions, law makers and bankers in the future.

A conference to discuss the major conclusions of the report will take place at the Bibliothèque Royale, Brussels on Wednesday, 7 December 2016. The last seats are available at

For further information or to speak to an expert on the team, please contact:
Reza Opdebeeck, Communications Officer, Finance Watch

T: +32 (0)2 880 04 40