Our Willy Hutton


At the end of the bank results season the cumulative provisions of our major banks against loan losses as a result of the "credit crunch" exceeds £13bn, a new milestone for the Guinness Book of Records. All, though, surprisingly have managed higher absolute profits and increased their dividends. It seems that such is underlying bank profitability that they can make humongous mistakes, and still stay alive, albeit greatly chastened.

The British are more gentlemanly. Nobody at the top is under threat of losing their job, and apparently HSBC is consulting shareholders on proposals to increase the pay and bonuses of senior managers. Hardly the timeliest of moments – but the only sanction is shareholder complaint. On past performance, expect very little – one reason, perhaps, why the crisis got so bad in the first place.

Wow. You mean that managers who increase the profits of their shareholders might get pay rises? Where will it all end?

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