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Blog series – Revd Dr Fiona Stewart-Darling

In advance of our event at the Bank of England on 21 March 2017, we asked interested parties to write on the theme: Worthy of trust? Law, ethics and culture in banking…

 

Post the financial crisis across the banking industry the behaviour and culture of the banks and bankers have been under intense scrutiny, and questions have been asked such as: How did this happen? How can we ensure that this never happens again? Jim Wallis, the public theologian and international commentator on ethics in public life, said at the World Economic Forum in January 2009 that the question we should ask of the world’s political and business leaders is ‘How will this crisis change us?’ This has inspired me and shaped my thinking about the role of faith in restoring trust within the financial industry.

As a multifaith chaplaincy team we are committed to offer assistance in promoting the role and value of wisdom from a faith perspective, as it helps to bring a more integrated approach and give a wider context to values and ethics. In the long term, helping employees to take joint responsibility for decisions and actions benefits the company, its core business and the wider community.

As chaplains, we understand from our experience as members of faith communities that human beings are relational and flourish more fully in a community than in isolation, and from within a community where wisdom is shared and behaviour can be learnt. Global banks are much more than a system or faceless structure; within them is a diverse community of people working together to deliver all the core activities. So when senior business leaders talk of changing the banking culture within their organizations, they are recreating an internal culture to ensure that their employees participate as responsible members of the community, living out their espoused values and ethical standards in the way they deliver all their bank’s core activities. For these to take root, it must be a communal activity and their employees’ importance for the business and the wider community must be made clear. Each employee has a part to play.

Often when referring to an individual’s values and ethics, the term ‘moral compass’ is used, which the Cambridge Dictionary defines as a natural feeling that makes people know what is right and wrong and how they should behave. As a chaplain, I want to suggest that it is more than a ‘feeling’ that is natural but is rooted in something deeper, a conscience that is shaped by background, upbringing, education, nationality and, for some, religious belief. The values and ethics expected of us within the workplace should not be seen in isolation from the rest of a person’s life but should provide the magnetic ‘pull’ of their ‘moral compass’ and be intrinsically linked with how they live within a community – in this context the local workplace community – and its relationship with the global community.

Moral and spiritual questions are important and can assist with the consideration for the wider and maybe long-term implications of an action or decision. They also can be helpful for dealing with genuine human mistakes or misjudgements, encouraging a positive atmosphere for people to own up or seek help to sort out issues and move forward before things become catastrophic. It is important that asking moral and spiritual questions is seen as strength and not weakness and that it is understood that they contribute to the collective wisdom within any team.

Revd Dr Fiona Stewart-Darling, Canary Wharf Multifaith Chaplaincy