Saturday, 25 June 2011

The Emperor's New Clothes

On occasion I am asked why I exchanged a lucrative career in the Financial Services Industry for the life of a housewife and mother. I am uncomfortable when I am faced with no alternative but to explain as failure on any level does not sit well with me. Admitting that my health failed, albeit in a non life threatening way, when undiagnosed Hypothyroidism, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, twice weekly migraines, high blood pressure and Alopecia Totalis finally caught up with me at the age of forty is no exception. 

In 1998, on my GP's instructions, I walked away from a job which provided substantial returns in exchange for an unsustainable pace and instead I chose to spend the past twelve years living an "alternative" lifestyle in an effort to accommodate my physical shortcomings by way of a less stressful life. As a result my hair grew back, my blood pressure settled, I no longer fell asleep the moment I sat down and I was much happier knowing I had time to surcombe to bouts of ill health when they occurred.

In October 2008 this changed.

Forced by circumstance to once again endure unhealthily high levels of stress when I become a one woman debt fighting machine immediately highlighted my inadequacies. Within a matter of days it plunged me back into a regime of daily migraine, sudden weight loss, insomnia, panic attacks and chronic Alopecia. Managing these health issues while simultaneously trying acquire up to date knowledge of the financial services industry guidelines and regulations has made it all the more arduous to access my own rusty knowledge of the industry let alone retain it but despite the shackles of these infuriating limitations, I  remained committed to saving my family from the ongoing persecution of HBOS. To this end I have been exploring the world of finance via archived newspaper articles. During my research I came across the words of ex- HBOS risk management executive and whistleblower Paul Moore and was nothing short of astounded to discover just what HBOS had been up to.

Having already lost his job as a result of his attempts to warn the HBOS board their lending strategy was critically flawed, Mr Moore bravely ignored a gagging order to expose the relentlessly irresponsible behavior of his HBOS colleagues.  His revelations provided me with an extremely enlightening insight into how my husband was able secure the levels of borrowing he did and also explained the short-term financial motivation behind the board's endorsement of these economically dangerous lending policies. Coupled with the shockingly inadequate aspects of corporate and regulatory governance which permitted an HBOS sales culture specifically designed to harvest short term gain regardless of the cost to customers and shareholders to go unchecked, it became clear from what Moore was saying, it was not just our home and our financial future which had been steered towards the rocks by HBOS, but that of the economy as a whole.

Convinced even non bankers with no risk management expertise would recognize the pitfalls of lending “money to people who have no jobs, no provable income and no assets” Paul Moore firmly believes the current financial crisis has come about as a direct result of "an Emperor’s New Clothes attitude within HBOS”. He says anyone “not blinded by money, power and pride felt unable to speak up for fear of stepping out of line with the rest of the lemmings who were busy organizing themselves to run over the cliff edge” behind their sweet talking CEO. 

This was a complete revelation to me.

However, despite this newly acquired insight and amid widespread reports Lloyds/HBOS' new CEO Antonio Horta Osorio plans for "a new beginning", I am still left completely unable to comprehend why HBOS, now publicly exposed for their recklessness and under official investigation, has seen fit to instruct both their collections and their legal departments to hound my family for a £217,000 shortfall which they created, risking further scrutiny and investigation and yet more bad press.

An ancient Arabian proverb suggests, "There are many ways to recognize foolish behavior, anger without cause; speech without profit; change without progress; inquiry without object" and because HBOS and their henchmen continue to employ each and every one of these traits to hound and harass their victims for no logical reason, I can only conclude they remain committed to seeking counsel from fools in preference to heeding the wise words of their former head of corporate risk management, Paul Moore. 

This does not bode at all well for any of us.

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