Is the City more ethical than you think?

A survey suggests financial sector workers thing the divide between the rich and the poor is 'too large'. What next?

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 21 Apr 2016
City-types might be painted as a bunch of money-grabbing fatcats by those waving their placards outside St Paul’s, but it turns out they’re actually rather more caring-and-sharing than you’d give them credit for. That’s according to a report by (incidentally) the St Paul’s Institute, which found that 75% of the City workers it surveyed honestly believe the divide between the rich and the poor is too big. Next they’ll be telling us Goldman Sachs has a secret department taking in orphaned kittens…

Admittedly, at 515 ‘financial professionals’ (City workers, then), the report’s sample size wasn’t huge. But its findings were interesting, nonetheless: 58% said they genuinely believe (financial) firms should invest ‘directly’ in deprived communities. 66% said they believe City bond traders get paid too much, with just a quarter saying that they’re paid about the right amount. By contrast, 70% reckon teachers should be paid more. Two-thirds, though, admitted that 'salary and bonuses' are finance sector workers' strongest motivations - while 'enjoyment of work' came a distant second.

The research was commissioned to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the financial ‘Big Bang’ - the deregulation of the London Stock Market in 1986, and the event that many attribute to the beginning of the ‘greed is good’ culture the St Paul’s protestors object to so much. Interestingly, though, not many of the survey’s respondents knew what it actually was: two in five thought it was something to do with the London Stock Exchange crashing, and a third ‘disagree’ that the markets were deregulated (they were. We promise). Just 14% knew the motto of the London Stock Exchange. Pah. Of course, any banker worth their salt knows it’s ‘Dictum Meum Pactum’ – My Word is My Bond.  

It’s obviously an issue troubling those with power in the City at the moment: separately, former Lazard International chairman Ken Costa (currently an Anglican church warden – interesting career progression there) has been asked to ‘start a dialogue’ on ethical capitalism. In an interview with the BBC, he explained what he thinks went wrong: ‘We split up the human person and said look, you’re only a financial person, try and get financial rewards, and forgot that there was an ethical and a spiritual dimension to humans as well.’ Er, quite.

Of course, it’s also arguable that people are trained to ‘split up the human person’ for a good reason: namely, that by ignoring market forces in favour of ethics, companies lose out. Which, at this period in time, is something the UK’s economy could do without. Although that’s not to say that MT is in favour of Gordon Gekko and chums running the City, either…

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