Faith can help to restore culture of trust, banker says

07 October 2009

by Ed Beavan

New perspective: Ken Costa de­livers his lecture at the RSA last week

New perspective: Ken Costa de­livers his lecture at the RSA last week

A BREAKDOWN of trust was the biggest contributor to the global financial crisis, and it needs to be rebuilt, Ken Costa, the chairman of both Alpha International and Lazard International, said in a lecture, “Faith in the Marketplace?”, on Wednesday last week.

Mr Costa was a speaker in the second of a series of seminars, New Perspectives on Faith and Develop­ment, at the Royal Society of Arts, organised by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. He has worked in the City for more than 30 years, and was formerly vice-chairman of UBS Investment Bank. He was joined by by Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Con­temporary Islamic Studies in the Uni­versity of Oxford.

Mr Costa said the smooth func­tioning of the economic market relied on trust, and, if that was not restored, the only alternative was increased regulation. “Because our values have shifted from a culture of trust to a culture of self-first, we are experi­encing a crisis of trust, resulting in the serious malfunctioning of the mar­ket­place.”

But “faith can help, as it articulates the values, and provides the motiv-ating spirit to generate and sustain a culture of trust in the marketplace.”

He went on to say that “religious faith can make a huge contribution to rebuild­ing trust in the ecomony,” and that people of faith had a “unique opportunity in the present financial crisis to offer their values to the marketplace”. Religious values could im­prove the health of corporate rela­tion­ships, and offer a more holistic approach to the market.

He acknowledged that there was “widespread anger among the public” at the causes of the economic crisis, and he described the market eco­nomy as “a good servant but a poor master”, which needs to be infused with “the values that promote the common good”. Religious faith “is going to play an increasingly signi­fi­c-ant role in the future”.

Globalisation had been a positive phenomenon, allowing the distribu­tion of wealth, but “ill effects now oc­cur on a global scale.”

He concluded by saying that the global economy “cannot do without faith”, and the future could be bright if people of faith applied “the values de­rived from their faith to the work­place”.

Other contributors to the debate included the Revd Dr Giles Fraser, Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, and John Reynolds, who chairs the Church of England Ethical Investment Advisory Group.

Canon Fraser said that the way people spent their money reveals a great deal about their values, and that “capital­ism is great at generating wealth, but not so good at distribu­ting it.” Mr Reynolds said it was “a lie that Gross Domestic Product must grow”, and that it only benefited the Govern­ment, allowing it to preserve a “cer­tain control of which we should be truly scared”.

The decline in commodity prices had led to a serious downturn in many African economies, such as Angola and Burkina Faso, and it was a disgrace, Mr Reynolds said, that Britain still imposed trade sanctions on African nations where people were struggling to live on one dollar a day.

The event was chaired by the Revd Steve Chalke.

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