Although clearly under Government pressure, some organisations and individuals such as Stephen Hester, RBS are beginning to do the right thing. Consumers may feel somewhat vindicated but I doubt it will stop the general ‘Culture of Blame’ the UK has fallen into. We have developed a blame culture where instead of being responsible for our own actions, consumers point the finger. This is particularly prevalent in the financial services sector. When asked who is to blame for the general downturn in the economy, research from the Building Society Association shows the majority of people blame the banks and the Government.
Since the financial crisis everyone but the individual has had to accept some kind of ramification for their actions. The FSA, the banks, the Government, pension funds, America, Iceland, Europe you name it, but not the man on the street.
In 2010 Mckinsey issued a report that actually placed the blame of the 2008 financial crisis on the consumer. The report blames middle-class consumers Americans, Britons, Canadians, and others for purchasing more homes than they could afford. The report was viewed with some scepticism and understandably so seeing as the company is directly tied to the international banking scene.
But even if we do take this report with a pinch of salt we need to take some responsibilities for our actions. Which ever way you look at it, the 2008 crisis and the continuous debacle into 2011 including the issues with Europe, was partly brought about by consumers with a ‘have it all’ culture. We are a nation of debtors with an average household debt (not including a mortage) of over £8,000. Hardly a good start for any economy.
Of course more onus needs to be placed on consumer protection and this is something the Financial Conduct Authority is looking at but as stated in the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000 any consumer protection objective must have regard to the ‘general principle that consumers should take responsibility for their decisions.’
People really need to take responsibility for their own futures and ensure they have suitably planned for everything life throws at them. We can not rely on the state or our employers anymore, a report from Friends Life recently said. It all comes down to one word ‘Education’ and it is up to both the financial services industry and the regulators to enforce this. But just as importantly is the man on the street’s willingness to learn so that we may avoid a similar crisis in the future.