Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200
TUESDAY 5 JUNE 2007
KNIGHT CBE, MR
Q200 Chairman: In one of the exchanges
I had with Grant Thornton, I said, if we have a voluntary scheme
here, what financial incentive would there be for financial institutions
to ensure that they get the maximum returns to remit? I got the
answer: "Other than demonstrating good cooperative citizenship?",
to which I said, "Yes." Then they came back, "Cynically,
one of the things that I have to understand is why there is a
benefit." Then another representative from Grant Thornton
comes in and said, "Actually it would be inconsistent with
the objectives of the institution to maximise shareholder, policyholder
wealth." So there was a bias against it.
Mr Chisnall: I do not believe
that the comments that Grant Thornton made were made on the basis
of experience of working with a UK institution.
Q201 Chairman: You are not giving
us any reassurance here on that particular issue, and that is
a big issue for us.
Ms Knight: Your concern being,
Chairman, if I take you correctly, that there is not sufficient
or equivalent effort given by each institution into reunification
of the dormant account moneys or bank account moneys.
Q202 Chairman: And also to prevent
some institutions coming to the Committee in a few years' time
saying, "Listen, we cooperated with this 100%. Look at the
scallywags down the road. They did not bother." Why did they
not bother? Because there was not sufficiently rigid legislation
and codes in there to ensure that they bothered. So, we have to
get this right to begin with.
Ms Knight: I do understand. Actually
I think it is going to be enormously difficult for anybody to
duck out of this. This is actually an important issue. It is important
to individuals. It is already getting a lot of publicity and that
is good regardless less of whether A has launched a programme
publicly and B has not. It is not about that. It is about the
fact that this is knowledge of individuals who are seeing it,
as I say, in a modest way on the websites. If I work my way through
the steps that I could typically see happening (and I do take
your point that you could well have, we could all well find ourselves
in a situation where some are making greater efforts than others),
then the consequence of that will simply be greater effort by
ourselves through our contact arrangements, the Building Society
Association through theirs, through complaints, if you like, initially
to ombudsmen or Banking Codes. So I think that even if there is
a differential start in how the various financial institutions
address this, it certainly is not going to stay as a differential
for very long because there are other checks and balances which
pick it up, but if you have some greater concerns in this area,
then I would say to you we certainly would be very interested
to hear what the Committee would propose.
Q203 Chairman: Angela, we will leave
on the best of terms but we are totally unconvinced. Thank you
for your appearance.
Ms Knight: Chairman, if you are
unconvinced could I leave you with this. We as the BBA representing
our institutions are looking forward to your views and your ideas
in this area. We have not got a closed book, we have not got a
door shut against other ideas, we are certainly open to continuing
this consultation, because we too think getting the money back
to individuals is important.
Chairman: Thank you.