Douglas Flint, the chairman of HSBC, is pushing for bankers to take an oath similar to that sworn by doctors as part of radical plans to overhaul the way the profession is viewed in the wake of the financial crisis and successive banking scandals. He is calling for the oath to be administered by an independent body designed to police the banking industry and is understood to have discussed the prospect with his counterparts at the UK's other big banks.
The idea of an oath — similar to the Hippocratic oath traditionally sworn by doctors — was raised in 2010 as part of a cross-party pre-election commission on banking whose members included Vince Cable, now the Business Secretary, but was not followed up.
Flint, the bank's finance director for 15 years before being elevated to chairman in 2011, is working with the British Bankers Association (BBA) on the idea. The association has set up a working committee to look at the creation of a new professional body complete with a code of standards.
Flint is believed to be of the view that the body must be independent of the industry — and of the BBA - if it is to be credible. He also believes that, working in tandem with the Financial Services Authority (FSA), it should have the ability to strike off bankers if they have broken the code of standards.
Under the FSA's present rules very few bankers have been censured. Flint is understood to have pointed colleagues to the principles for good business conduct devised by Lord George, the former Governor of the Bank of England, in 2004. The first of eight principles sets out the need "to act honestly and fairly at all times when dealing with clients, customers and counter-parties".
Flint has also been busy in his role at HSBC, where it is understood he has begun sounding out future non-executive directors as he continues to refresh its board. Following the recruitment of Joachim Faber, the former chief executive of Allianz, and John Lipsky, the former deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund, earlier this year, the bank's chairman is looking for other new candidates.
An HSBC spokesman declined to comment.