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UK’s Financial Trade Association: Out of Five, One

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In a sweeping move to consolidate lobbying power in the United Kingdom’s financial services industry, five financial trade organizations are merging.

Among the outfits coming together under one umbrella: The British Bankers’ Association and Payments UK.

The announcement, made on Friday (Nov. 20), follows a proposal from a number of Britain’s leading banks to bring nine associations together, and now that tally has been winnowed down to five.

One overarching theme, the banks found, was that lobbying efforts across the trade association were often duplicated, which in turn has led to inefficiencies.

Under the terms of the proposal, in addition to the two entities mentioned above, the panel has posited that the merger also include the UK Cards Association, the Asset Based Finance Association and the country’s Council of Mortgage Lenders.

In addition to the reduction of redundant lobbying efforts, the banks noted that the trade association fees could be slashed by up to 30 percent, according to a Reuters article posted today.

The costs are substantial. As the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation has estimated, banks spend, on an annual basis, as much as 50 million pounds ($76.25 million) in order to belong to, and work with, trade associations. There is a fair amount of overlap in membership among those organizations, as roughly 60 percent of those organizations listing membership across the U.K. Payments Council also list with the British Bankers’ Association. The review estimated that the merger could save as much as 33 million pounds (roughly $50 million) over the next 25 years.

In one hint of what may be a bit of dissension as to the merits of the merger, the Building Societies Association and the Finance & Leasing Association have both said that they do not support joining the merged entity.

The merger must still pass muster, with a vote set for February of 2016, and that would bring the revamped, slimmed down group to be fully operational by the end of the year after an initial “soft launch” that would begin in May, Reuters said.

In a statement Friday, the British Bankers’ Association said that a number of ideas that are still in circulation and up for review center on establishing “specialist committees” to focus on digital innovation and emerging financial technologies. In addition, the review by the banking industry at large has recommended that two separate committees be established, in order to address concerns of both consumers and small to-mid-sized enterprises, with meetings with the as-yet to be established “main board” of consolidated lobbying firms once a year.

The proposal is now open to review and commentary.

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