HSBC Holdings PLC Chairman Stephen Green said the "financial crisis is still far from over" and urged bankers to regain trust from customers and society as a whole.
"We cannot even say that we're past the worst or [that] the way out of the woods is clear," he said Tuesday at a British Bankers Association conference in London.
Green said there are still global macroeconomic imbalances, loose credit conditions and dangerous overtrading in parts of the financial sector, among other problems.
He said these problems have led to a "massive breakdown of trust" in the financial system, in bankers, in business, in politicians and in globalization.
Green said that "rebuilding trust is partly a matter of effective rules and guidance" and that he welcomed the U.K. government's review of financial regulation through the Turner Review and that of corporate governance of banks through the Walker Review.
Still, rules and guidelines "cannot in themselves be sufficient," he said.
"Unless we think more widely about our responsibilities," he said, "we will not have sustainable business models and indeed we risk losing sight of the very raison d'etre of banking" — "to provide financial services on a sustainably profitable basis to our customers."
Winning back trust, Green said, "means focusing on long-term customer relationships, not just the next transaction. Because it implies ensuring responsibility in trading, ensuring that management tests the suitability and transparency of products that are sold or transactions undertaken, not just their profitability."
Green, the chairman of the British Bankers Association, also said that a "resurrected Glass-Steagall model, if you will, would be totally unrealistic." This refers to calls to separate retail banking from investment banking.
Vince Cable, shadow chancellor of the U.K.'s Liberal Democratic party, said last month that momentum was building in political circles in favor of separating retail banking operations from investment banking operations.
Splitting banks into so-called utility banks, offering standard bank services to retail and commercial customers, and "casino" banks, that are active in trading and offer investment banking services, would somewhat mirror the Glass-Steagall model, an act passed by the U.S. Congress in 1933, which prohibited a retail bank from owning other financial institutions such as investment banks. That act was repealed in 1999.
"In this age of markets that are interconnected across both geography and product, it is a fantasy to believe that 'narrow banking' is the way to predictability and stability," Green said.