Thursday, 5 July 2012

In defence of Bankers.

I work in bank and I can proudly say that the vast majority of individuals working in banks are honest, hard-workers, strive for success and personal improvement, do their utmost to provide the best possible service to their clients, follow the highest standards of professionalism and a code of ethics that permeates everything they do in their work. Most of us at banks are just normal blokes who like to enjoy a pint after work at our local pub with some friends or spend time with our families. Most of us don't earn massive salaries and bonus. London Tube drivers earn more than many of us. Most of us are not greedy, or at least not more greedy than most people is. Of course I want a bigger salary or bonus, but everyone does. Whoever is free of sin cast the first stone. Most of us do not break basic ethical principles and morals to get a quick buck.  And no, not all of us go out every night to Gentlemen clubs drinking expensive Champaign and smoking fat cigars. Personally, I'm happy to go back home every day after a long day of work to see my family and read a good book.

And yes, certainly there are those who are a bit cheeky and try to push the boundaries. I am a compliance officer and I have to deal with them every day, but it makes me proud that most people I have ever worked with always come to reason and realise that it is beneficial for everyone to play within the rules. Finally, you have the rotten apples. Although I have never met anyone of them I'm sure they do exist. They do in any country, any sector, any industry and any company and they should be punished to serve as an example for others with crooked intentions. But there is no relation or link between a small group of criminals and discussing culture change in a organization like a bank that employs thousands of people where most of them are good intentioned individuals.

But some may argue that it is the bank's culture that nurtures the appearance of these criminal minds. Well, so far I have worked in three City banks in the last 5 years and all of them inculcate a top down approach to ethics and culture, have strong internal codes of ethics and treat very seriously any breach of them. It may well be a smokescreen you may think but most of us know very well that if we do not act according to the highest level of morals, ethics and professionalism, clients will go to our competitor or ruin our career. I have seen many disciplinary cases during my live as compliance officer.

So, when Tories and Labour, journalists, regulators, central bankers and the public in general claim that banks and bankers need a cultural change, I do not understand what all this furore is about.  The 90's are long gone and banks' culture has improved significantly since then. Nowadays, most banks promote and are involved in social activities and care about their neighbour. My employer organises regular days out where a bunch of us participate in social activities, matches our personal contributions to charities and supports working experiences for children from less well off schools. So, again, I don't understand. You may think I'm blind because I'm an insider and this rant is just self-interested. Perhaps it is, but it is undeniable that culture in banks or the culture of most people working at banks is not rotten, regardless of the empty demagogy of politicians.

What is even more distressful is that most of those people claiming a culture change do not have any authority to talk about morals. When government, parliament, the press, regulators and central bankers have all been tarnished by scandals rooted in low ethics and a rotten culture I personally laugh at their authority to even mention banks culture. It's like a drunkard telling me off for having a beer. It is hypocrisy. In my humble view, what this country needs is a culture change starting from politicians, regulators and other top public officials who should sort out their own house first and set the example to follow.

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