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'Believe in fallible people, not infallible people' - Archbishop on bankers

Bankers are as prone to human mistakes as anyone else, but banks should operate with the 'fear of hell and hope of heaven', the Archbishop of Canterbury has told a packed debate at St Paul's.

Speaking at the last of three debates in a series entitled The City and the Common Good, What kind of City do we want?, the Archbishop delivered a substantial keynote address (Wednesday 12 June).


Archbishop Welby said that good banks have an essential role to play in ‘human flourishing’ and that the current economic context "demands an answer based not only in stakeholder jargon, but in the sense of body and belonging. Goodness is the result of serving our highest interests, not of limiting our obligations."

In his talk he aimed to "give another view of wealth and money” to what has been generally accepted. "The usually implicit assumption that profitable companies make for a flourishing country needs challenging...profit and good return is a necessity, but it is only a means to an end. The end should be human flourishing.”

He added that if we want good banks with good bankers we have to "believe in fallible people, not infallible people".

VIEW IMAGES FROM THE DEBATE

Although unable to comment on the detail of the soon-to-be published Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards report, he posited that "good banks must have values of integration into society; mutual service to all other parts of society; reasonable but not excessive profitability; and the effective and measured distribution of wealth to ensure high levels of investment in sustainable products and things that are good.”

The address put forward a challenge to the banking sector, that "there should be a deliberate, self-designed popping of the bubble of inward-looking self-regard.”

He argued that we must move from the concept of systems to the concept of ‘bodies’ - "a metaphor that shows us how people and institutions can work together so that they all flourish, and warns us about the risks that follow if one part of the body takes over.”

He called for the need to be acutely aware of "the spiritual and personal impact of trading only in intangibles as the principle activity of an economy” adding that the "worry is that we have stopped seeking human flourishing because we have stopped enabling human creativity to participate fully across the whole enterprise that is the banking sector.”

Archbishop Welby concluded by saying that for banks to be good they needed the "fear of hell and the hope of heaven, not merely the fear of penury and the hope of a larger bank account” and that we must have a vision of "banks that live with a culture that is self-correcting and self-learning, a culture that is more like a body then a system and so develops the conscience, will, and direction that enable the common good.”

READ ARCHBISHOP WELBY'S FULL ADDRESS

The Archbishop was joined by a panel of eminent speakers which included Antony Jenkins, Group Chief Executive of Barclays; John Fingleton, former Chief Executive of the Office of Fair Trading; and Laura Willoughby MBE, Chief Executive of the Move Your Money campaign.

Organised by St Paul's Institute, in conjunction with CCLA, investment manager for charities, churches and local authorities, the series of debates under the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral looked to stimulate public dialogue on the role of the financial sector in society today.

Tweets from the debates can be viewed under the #CommonGood hash tag.

LOOK BACK AT DEBATE 1 – GOOD PEOPLE, WITH ARCHBISHOP VINCENT NICHOLS – REPORT, IMAGES, VIDEO, FULL KEYNOTE SPEECH TRANSCRIPT

LOOK BACK AT DEBATE 2 – GOOD MONEY, WITH LORD ROBERT SKIDELSKY – REPORT, IMAGES, VIDEO, FULL KEYNOTE SPEECH TRANSCRIPT