The global financial crisis has inspired little meaningful reform, says WEF founder

  • The financial crisis of 2008 has done little to inspire meaningful change in the banking industry, WEF's Schwab told CNBC
  • Almost exactly a decade ago, the failure of Lehman Brothers roiled global markets.
  • The collapse of Lehman unveiled that the bank had a huge problem with mortgage-backed securities

The man behind the annual gathering of elites in the Swiss mountain retreat of Davos believes the financial crisis of 2008 has done little to inspire meaningful change in the banking industry.

"Unfortunately, I have to say that we haven't learned too much," Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum (WEF), told CNBC on Friday.

Most analysts believe the global banking system is in a much safer position than it was before Lehman Brothers collapsed 10 years ago. That's because, amid a broad push for stronger regulation, lenders have been forced to increase their capital ratios to better protect themselves from external shocks.

World Economic Forum (WEF) founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab
FABRICE COFFRINI | AFP | Getty Images
World Economic Forum (WEF) founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab

"We have learned how we avoid a major global breakdown, and I think all credit has to go to the cooperation of central banks. But we have postponed to a certain extent the problem or we have found a way where we give the whole mess which we have created to the next generation to solve," Schwab said.

"We should not forget that the global debt today is substantially higher than it (was) at the beginning of the financial crisis," he added.

Banking risks 'very much under control'

Almost exactly a decade ago, the failure of Lehman Brothers roiled global markets. It was the fourth-largest U.S. investment bank when it filed for bankruptcy on September 15, 2008, prompting an erosion of nearly $10 trillion in market capitalization in global equities over the following four weeks.

The collapse of Lehman unveiled that the bank had a huge problem with mortgage-backed securities — a kind of asset that was in fact worth very little compared to its price. But, more broadly, Lehman's problems were every bank's problems.

In Europe, banks that had also taken elevated risks struggled to get funding and many had to be rescued by huge bailouts from their respective governments.

"The banking industry in the world, and specifically in Europe, is in a completely different situation today," Severin Cabannes, deputy CEO of Societe Generale, told CNBC's Nancy Hungerford and Mandy Drury at the annual Singapore Summit on Friday.

"Of course, the general financial world still has some risk, but in a banking sub-segment I would say that the risk is very much under control."

— CNBC's Silvia Amaro contributed to this report.