The event focused on rebuilding trust among the public for those who work in the financial services – and Mr Umunna admitted that he is concerned about the ability of businesses to gain access to the banking services they need.
He said: “The financial services sector has a crucial role to play in [the diversification of the UK economy], which is why – to coin a phrase – I am intensely unrelaxed about the problems small businesses and entrepreneurs face in dealing with our banks.”
While stressing that he is unapologetically critical of the City and its recent failings, Mr Umunna added that the banks provide a service that is as essential to modern life as any utility like gas, electricity or water – and are, therefore, deserving of support in general.
In order to restore trust in the financial services industry from the public, Mr Umunna says ‘collective action’ may be needed – something that was visibly lacking in the wake of the recent PPI and interest rate swap mis-selling, and LIBOR scandals.
He warned that progress will only be made when the financial services sector is seen to be taking action to put its house in order – with the Policy Review Intelligence summit one step towards this.
But he also suggested that more stringent action should be considered, including the potential for custodial sentences to be handed down for gross wrongdoing among financial services practitioners.
“Never again must we be in a situation where our banks have the potential to bring down our entire economy,” he asserted.