1 August 2014

I think it’s safe to say that bankers aren’t everyone’s favourite people in Britain. If there were an award for the most scandal caused, it might be a tie between the bankers in the financial industry and the complete bankers in government! The question of how we make people more honest in these kinds of industries has been asked many times, but the answer that’s been proposed this week seems fairly ridiculous.

shaltnotstealIn case you didn’t see this, a think tank has come up with the idea of making bankers swear an oath similar to the one doctors must swear – like a Hippocratic Oath, but promising to “behave in a manner that prioritises the needs of the customers” and “confront impropriety”. Is this really going to work? I’m told that from next year, Dutch bank employees will have to do this, optionally to God, promising to do their job with integrity. In the UK, there seems to be a lot of cynicism over the effectiveness of the idea, and I can understand why.

If you’ve got a dishonest person in the first place, what happens when you ask them, “will you swear on that bible that you’re going to abide by these rules and be honest?” Firstly, that person might not believe in God or the bible. Secondly, surely anybody who is going to be dishonest anyway will simply go through the motions, say their oath and then just carry on doing what they’re doing anyway.

Sadly, high volumes of money will always attract unscrupulous people. Not only that, but people get addicted to it. They want to make more and more. If there’s a short cut, what some people consider as a loop hole; it will be abused. As long as there is commerce in the world, you will always get people trying to find short cuts. Does it not make sense that they should just go to prison if they do something fraudulent, simple as that?

Ultimately, it’s about the kinds of people financial institutions choose to employ and how they go about it. They should take their time getting to know these people because it’s large sums of money they’re dealing with and the stakes are high. I’m just not convinced that making bankers swear an oath is really going to fix the fundamental problem of people being dishonest.

Sorry, ResPublica, but I think this should have been called a stink tank, not a think tank.

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