We shan’t listen to advice, say bankers

09 November 2011

by Ed Thornton

A REPORT published by the St Paul’s Institute on Monday suggests that a large majority of financiers in the City of London will not listen to church guidance on ethics.

Value and Values: Perceptions of ethics in the City today presents the findings of a survey of 515 people working in the financial-services sector, carried out by the polling company ComRes. The report was written before anti-capitalism pro­testers set up camp outside St Paul’s, and was intended to be published to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the financial “Big Bang” on 27 October (Comment, 4 November).

The manager of the St Paul’s Institute, Robert Gordon, said on Monday that its publication had been delayed because “the unprecedented circumstances” at the cathedral would have meant that “the existence of the report would have been seen as the issue”, and not its actual content.

Seventy-six per cent of those surveyed in the report disagreed — most of them strongly — with the statement: “The City of London needs to listen more to the guidance of the Church.” In addition, 47 per cent said that they “never attend a religious service or meeting, apart from special occasions”, and 38 per cent said that they did not believe in God.

The report suggested that most City workers were critical of some aspects of the financial sector. The majority thought that City professionals were paid too much, especially “bond traders”, whom 66 per cent said were overpaid; 75 per cent agreed “that there is too great a gap between rich and poor”. However, 64 per cent said that “salary and bonuses” were the “most important motivation for working in the City”.

Just over half (51 per cent) of respondents said that deregulation had resulted in “less ethical be­haviour in general terms”; 33 per cent thought it had made no differ­ence, and 16 per cent thought it had led to “more ethical behaviour”.

Only 14 per cent knew the motto of the London Stock Exchange: “My word is my bond.”

In a foreword to the report, written before his resignation as Canon Chancellor, Canon Giles Fraser said that the lack of interest shown by the City to the views of the Church, and the low rates of church atten­d-ance among financiers “can be partly explained by the fact that the Church itself is largely illiterate when it came to questions of finance.

“Despite the fact that, if you count up all the references, the right use of money is the number one moral issue in the Bible, the Church has pre­ferred to spend its time arguing endlessly about sex.”

Speaking at a press briefing at St Paul’s Chapter House on Monday, the former Bishop of Worcester, Dr Peter Selby, who wrote a formal response to the report’s findings, said that financial professionals appeared to live with “significant contradic­tions”.

“They think that they’re overpaid for what they do, but . . . they do the job because of the money that it gives them. People live with something that they think isn’t really right, but that they’re trapped in.” In his afterword, Dr Selby writes: “‘How do you live with the contradiction?’ seems like a fertile question for both individual encounters and discus­sion/conference work.”

Dr Selby said that the anti-capitalism protesters outside St Paul’s had “made a very important sacrificial gesture that commands our attention. There isn’t any ques­tion that there’s more attention being given to this topic now than there was before they came, and that’s excel­lent.”

Mr Gordon said that the report allowed the St Paul’s Institute “to build quite a solid foundation for en­gagement with the camp, with the City”. He said that five copies of the report had been given to the Occupy London camp; and that the In­stitute hoped to publish responses from the protesters on its website.

The Precentor of St Paul’s, Canon Michael Hampel, said: “Although it’s a coincidence that the report has been published in the middle of the story about the encampment, clearly the encampment means that we can include protesters themselves in the debate about how this report is taken on.”

A statement issued by Occupy London on Monday, responding to the report, said: “This conflict be­tween personal morality and finan­cial incentives is an important find­ing. . . While personal morality is an important aspect of the crisis that faces us, Occupy London believes that emphasis must also be placed on the regulatory responsibilities of government and the ability of main­stream politics to accurately repre­sent and protect the interests of the ordinary working people of this country.”

It said that the encampment’s “Tent City University” would be hold­ing a debate on issues arising from the report today.

Link to report

It said that the encampment’s “Tent City University” would be hold­ing a debate on issues arising from the report today.

Link to report

Ethical investment

Ethical investment

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