I was having a beer with a friend of mine who happens to be the head of PR at a well known company. He remarked that, in PR terms, the whole financial crisis has been a disaster for the banks. No one from any of the banks or their representative bodies has even come close to apologising for getting the rest of us into this mess.
Perhaps that is because their arrogance is so boundless that they don’t think they have done anything wrong. That mind-set was displayed by AIG’s chief executive when he defended his corporate jollies in the same week as he tapped the US government for another $37 billion. Earlier this week we learnt that five Wall Street banks plan to pay out $70 billion in discretionary bonuses, despite having asked for cash from US taxpayers. Things are no different in the UK, where Lloyds has said that it will pay bonuses despite a £5.5 billion taxpayer bail-out and staff at state-owned Northern Rock have been offered payments of up to 60% of their salaries.
It is clear that, despite chalking up huge losses, undermining the economy and draining the public purse in the biggest corporate bail-outs in history, bankers still expect to carry on as before. They seem oblivious to the fact that most people blame them for the crisis and are furious that, even as they take taxpayers’ money, they continue to pay themselves excessively.
Is it that bankers just don’t see the need to manage public perceptions or is it that they are too arrogant to care what other people think of them? Either way, it seems that, for now, it is business as usual in the City and on Wall Street.