By Marcus Leach

Monday saw the publication of the final report by the Independent Commission on Banking.

The report outlines a series of measures intended to boost competition and transparency within the UK’s powerful banking sector, and to stimulate affordable lending to businesses for the benefit of the broader UK economy.

John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said that government must champion enterprise and wealth creation.

“Reforms to the banking system proposed by the Vickers report must be considered in the wider context of economic growth," he said.

"The government must prioritise enterprise, wealth creation, growth and jobs - a strong, well-capitalised banking sector prepared to lend is vital to achieving this.

“We cannot afford to see collateral damage among Britain’s SMEs as a consequence of banking reform. While there is clearly a need to ensure our banking system is robust, we must ensure that new regulations, however desirable in principle, do not inadvertently derail the recovery or hinder businesses’ access to finance.

“We support the broad aims of ring-fencing in strengthening the UK’s banking system. Delaying the implementation of ring-fencing until 2019 is a welcome step, given the real concern that it may limit banks’ ability to lend to growing businesses. However, the unilaterally high capital ratios proposed by the report, could weaken growth over the medium-term and damage an industry with good growth prospects where the UK has a comparative advantage.

“The need for more competition in banking services, particularly for SMEs, has to be a major priority. The existing divestments are a welcome step but there is more to be done. Improving competition would mean better terms and conditions for business, and would in time drive down business costs.

“The report includes welcome recommendations on improving switching services for customers. If it is easier for businesses to switch between providers, banks will place a premium on good service to SME customers. However, we believe these proposals could go further - for example, allowing businesses to take account numbers when switching between providers.”

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