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Margaret Heffernan Headshot

Trust Me, I'm a Banker?

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That was the gist of a presentation given by Richard Sermon, Chairman of the Advisory Board of the Lord Mayor's Initiative 'Restoring Trust in the City'. He was speaking at the "Trust and Integrity in the Global Economy" conference put on by Initiatives of Change at Caux.

Why should we trust bankers? Because, Sermon said, they were good people who had faith in their institutions. He had done a survey - together with Cass Business School - which showed that, according to Sermon "the vast majority are confident of ethics in their workplace." So there isn't a need for more regulation.

Really?

When Sermon said this, alarm bells rang in my head. I tracked down the report Sermon referred to and found the facts.

This survey
sent out 2,499 email questionnaires of which the grand total of ten percent replied in full. On that basis, Sermon declared, everything was fine.

This is so crude a misrepresentation of truth that I can't decide if it is stupid or bad; probably it's both. We're supposed to be convinced that all is well in UK finance because 249 people say so?? Never mind the stupidity of asking people predisposed to think well of themselves whether they think well of themselves; what's more impressive than the response is the silence.

No wonder that most conference attendees felt insulted by Sermon's arrogance. Did he really think his audience was so stupid as to be mollified by such propaganda? Was he so out of touch and complacent that he didn't expect anyone to check his data? Does the City of London really imagine that such crass manipulation of weak research will convince anyone? Can they really do not better than this pathetic ruse?

And what the **** is Cass Business School doing lending its fragile credibility to this kind of abject, misleading nonsense?

I would truly like to think that financial services were in good hands and that the UK banking industry was safe and sound; I'd sleep better if I did. But the fact that City grandees imagine that this kind of smug misrepresentation by a retired PR honcho will do any good only convinces people more that our financial institutions are in the hands of people who either can't see the truth or have no respect for it.