U.K. bankers face the risk of being barred from their profession by an independent body if they misbehave, under new rules being weighed up by the main City bank lobby group in a bid to revive the battered reputation of the financial sector.
The British Bankers' Association is looking at proposals to require all bankers to join an independent professional body in a similar way as doctors, lawyers and accountants.
If bankers breach ethical or professional standards, they could then be struck off the register of members. This would go much beyond the Financial Services Authority's register, which mostly applies to senior management or traders who can be fined and banned for more explicit wrongdoing.
Anthony Browne, BBA's new chief executive, confirmed that a general register for bankers was one of the measures under debate to give an independent professional body the clout to uphold professional and ethical standards.
"Such a body will only have credibility if it will be independent from the industry and if it will have real teeth," he told the Financial Times ahead of the BBA's annual conference on Wednesday.
The BBA's taskforce has been set up at the behest of a number of chairmen of banks in the City and some of them are believed to be sympathetic to a general register.
"Even bouncers are members of a professional body and can be thrown out, but if you are a banker you are not," said a senior banker working for one of the largest foreign banks in London.
Such a body would mirror similar institutions in other sector such as the British Medical Association for doctors or the Institute of Chartered Accountants, which admits members only after passing examinations and a period of work experience.
It would likely be broader than the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority in the US, which licenses securities traders and requires them to pass exams before working in the sector.
The idea to set up a professional body has also been promoted by Barclays in the bank's submission to the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards – a parliamentary body chaired by conservative MP Andrew Tyrie with a view to changing the"culture of recklessness" in the banking sector.
It comes as the sector is seeking to re-establish its reputation after a series of scandals have raised serious questions about banks' culture even from within the industry.
"I firmly believe that what is required is a groundbreaking shift in culture and behavior," Bill Michael, KPMG's UK head of financial services, will say at the BBA's conference on Wednesday.
He will urge banks to create ethical standards reminiscent of the "Victorian Gentleman Bankers' Code" in the 19th century.
"A bankers' code could underpin a drive to professionalize banking with greater qualifications and more explicit ethics," he will say.