News Column

G2: Shortcuts: Banking: 'I promise not to derail the economy ...'

July 30, 2014

Stuart Heritage

For years, the country's most celebrated thinkers have struggled to come up with a way to keep those pesky bankers in check. Tighter regulation? That won't work. Smaller bonuses? Unlikely to change anything. A root-and-branch overhaul of the entire system? Nope.

But, finally, a solution has been found, one that's guaranteed to stop bankers from being reckless and self-interested: oaths. According to thinktank ResPublica, bankers should have to say an oath. Out loud.

Extracts from the proposed oath, designed to remind bankers of their moral and social obligations, include the lines: "It is my first duty to provide an exemplary quality of service to my customers", and "I will confront profligacy and impropriety wherever I encounter it". Which is all well and good, except for one thing: it's an oath.

Oaths are great if, say, you're in the Night's Watch and it's your job to protect the rest of the Game of Thrones cast from being eaten alive by giant ice-zombies. But in my experience, an oath is a lot less effective than a law. In fact it's only as good as the person who's reciting it. The Cub Scout Promise is "I will do my best", for example, but that didn't stop me from naffing off during Cub Camp and letting someone else pitch my tent. And that was just Cubs, for crying out loud. I had pretty much zero financial stake in my performance there. No, an oath for bankers is a nice idea on paper, but I can solemnly swear I'll eat my own legs if it works.

Stuart Heritage

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Source: Guardian (UK)

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