British banking is at a tipping point. Twelve years on from the financial crisis, the Big Four lenders have survived but neither their share prices nor their reputations have recovered.

And now, with Brexit, only one has a settled boss in place – and she has only just been appointed.

The leadership of the other three hangs in the balance. This looks like a crunch moment for the entire industry.

Troubled times: The future of Barclays' chief executive Jes Staley, who is under investigation by City regulators over his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, is plainly up in the air

Troubled times: The future of Barclays’ chief executive Jes Staley, who is under investigation by City regulators over his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, is plainly up in the air

The future of Barclays’ chief executive Jes Staley, who is under investigation by City regulators over his relationship with Jeffrey Epstein, is plainly up in the air.

Matters may not be so dramatic at HSBC and Lloyds, both of which announce their results this week, but it is unclear how much longer the men who present them will be in situ.

We all have a stake in having the right people running our financial institutions: one only has to recall Fred the Shred and his cohorts to be conscious of that.

This is a bad time for there to be uncertainty and turmoil at the top of our lenders. As we extricate ourselves from the EU, the country needs its bank bosses to focus on supporting the economy and not to be distracted by speculation over their futures.

Unfortunately, this is far from the case.

HSBC, the country’s biggest bank, has been without a permanent chief executive for several months.

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Instead, it is being run by interim boss Noel Quinn, who is this week about to unveil details of a huge overhaul, likely to involve the loss of 10,000 jobs worldwide.

Quinn is looking at getting rid of its branches on the west coast of the US and at ditching the loss-making retail banking operations in France along with improving performance at the investment bank.

In other words, this is a very major revamp indeed, but Quinn does not even know whether he will be in the top job to implement it, or whether he will have to hand the project over to someone else.

Informed sources suggest the bank is unlikely to name a permanent chief executive next week.

This is clearly unsatisfactory for Quinn himself, but also for investors: they cannot be happy being kept in ignorance as to whether he will get the job, since the success of any plan depends so heavily on the person delivering it.

Over at Lloyds, the leadership has been constant under Antonio Horta-Osorio, the chief executive of nine years’ standing.

However, there are signs patience may be wearing thin with the status quo.

The critical review by Sir Ross Cranston late last year into the bank’s handling of the HBOS Reading scandal is the latest cause for discontent.

There are mutterings that it is time for fresh blood. The long-serving chairman, Lord Blackwell, is due to step down in 2021, but change may come sooner than that.

Some observers believe Osorio may move on this year, when his three-year strategy comes to an end.

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Back at Barclays, leadership crises have for the past two decades been a way of life. It has lurched between appointing traditional British bankers and buccaneering North Americans like Matt Barrett, Bob Diamond and now Jes Staley, who seems unlikely to remain long at the helm.

Whatever the outcome of the probe into his relationship with Epstein, the risk is that Staley becomes a harmful distraction from the performance of the bank. If that is the case, he should perhaps resign.

The banks face some tough challenges. They need to cut costs without alienating too many customers; to increase revenues without ripping people off; to compete against the new fin-tech operators; to repair their still-damaged reputations and to revive their share prices, which remain below pre-crisis levels.

Well-run banks are an indispensable part of a thriving economy, so it is disconcerting to see so much uncertainty in the boardrooms of our High Street lenders.

Only at RBS, to be renamed NatWest, where newly-installed chief executive Alison Rose took over in November, does the situation seem relatively settled.

It’s early days for her and, after the resignation of Sajid Javid, it’s dangerous to see anyone as secure in their post.

But it’s quite a turnaround when the most stable leadership is to be found at RBS.

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