Levene Says U.K. Banks Should Return to Basics, Serve Customers

Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) -- NBNK Investments Plc Chairman Peter Levene said banks need to get their “priorities right” by serving customers rather than each other.

Meanwhile, politicians and the media should “remove a lot of the present hysteria,” Levene said, according to the text of a speech to the annual Worshipful Company of International Bankers dinner in London which was made available to journalists before delivery.

“If we examine the business model of many of the largest financial institutions operating today in the U.K., you will find that a large part of their operations are concerned with trading with each other in products that operate virtually in a closed loop and are not relevant in the wider economy,” Levene, 70, said in the text. They should get “back to basics,” Levene said.

The financial industry has become embroiled in a “media assault” centered on remuneration and should henceforth concentrate on “constructive” banking and helping to fix the economy, Levene said.

As banks enter the annual bonus season, they’ve been on the receiving end of a public backlash. Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc Chief Executive Officer Stephen Hester said on Jan. 29 he’d give up his 963,000-pound ($1.5 million) bonus after Labour leader Ed Miliband called for a Parliamentary vote on the issue. Two days later, Hester’s predecessor, Fred Goodwin, was stripped of a knighthood awarded in 2004 for “services to banking” because of his role in leading RBS into the world’s biggest bailout.

NBNK is an investment vehicle created by former Lloyd’s of London Chairman Levene last year. It missed out to Co-Operative Bank Plc in December on the 632 branches that Lloyds Banking Group Plc is selling.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gavin Finch in London at gfinch@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Edward Evans at eevans3@bloomberg.net