Tuesday, 12 October 2010


The heads of several media groups,including ITV and BBC, have written to Business Secretary Vince Cable urging him to block any attempt by Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp to take full control of BSkyB on the grounds that such a move "could reduce diversity" in the marketplace. Whatever the merits of their specific case (and I have to admit to being a reader of The Times and avid watcher of SkySports) the importance of a diverse market with genuine consumer choice is compelling.Diversity in business is a contemporary topic and I am struck by the potency of the argument for diversity in our own marketplace .A recent research report by the Oxford Centre for Mutual and Employee-Owned Business makes that case very powerfully, reminding us that a more diverse financial services sector promotes systemic stability and offers benefits to individual customers by increasing competition and choice. The report emphasises that mutuals bring a market dimension based on service and member-engagement with low risk-appetite and high customer endorsement.Such characteristics are worthy of support from decision makers and regulators if only to put competitive pressure on the banks where the current market share of the biggest 6 banks in gross residential lending is excessive . In a thought provoking report the author Jonathan Michie also finds time to advocate a Minister for Mutuals. Now that would go a long way to convince many that the coalition government's promise to " foster diversity in financial services" is a genuine one.

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