The Values of Money: Making Contact
by The Revd Andrew Studdert-Kennedy
Posted: 9 Jun 2011
Before contacting people who are currently working in finance, I needed to get some guidance on how best to approach them and also some indication about whether or not such an approach would be welcomed.
I am fortunate in having Robert Taylor as a parishioner in the neighbouring village of Mildenhall. Robert has just stepped down as Chief Executive of Kleinwort Benson Bank and was therefore ideally placed to offer advice.
His response was both generous and encouraging. I had already invited him to speak to our Deanery Synod at the height of the crisis and he had indicated then how many colleagues in senior positions were troubled about the future of the financial services industry.
When approached about helping me in this project, he was sure that it would be well received so long as I came with an open mind and not with a conclusion towards which I was already moving.
At first I considered whether or not it might be possible to shadow people in a bank, but was told straight away that issues of client confidentiality made this impossible.
With Robert's advice and my own reflections I drafted a letter which I have sent to a number of people, most of whom I have managed to gain some kind of introduction to. The central content of the letter took the following form:
I hope to explore the potential contribution that the Christian tradition might be able to make to a debate about finance in the current economic climate.
The banking crisis and global economic slow down seem to have left behind much uncertainty about how all of us understand our roles and our worth at a time when economic growth appears to stop. At the moment we seem to be waiting for growth to return but that leaves the suspicion that an opportunity for further reflection is being missed.
I do not claim to have the answers to the questions posed, but I would be very interested to learn from those directly employed in the finance industry (who have experienced and felt the impacts of the crisis firsthand) how they viewed and valued their role before, how their view of the industry and their role in it has changed, and how we might all learn from the past to help us mould the future.
There are three particular areas I would like to focus on:
- Is our value or purpose in life so tied to economic growth that a slow down in economic activity is an indication of failure?
- If the answer to the above is 'No', how do we accommodate those other values into the system once growth returns?
- At a time when so much finance activity is 'virtual', how might the Christian tradition keep us in touch with things that are real?
Whilst the merit of such an approach is that it is open minded, the hazard is that the issues it addresses are so huge that debate will remain infuriatingly abstract rather than practical.
It will be interesting to see the response I get.
This piece is part of a series by Revd Andrew Studdert-Kennedy exploring the role of the financial sector and how we might come to understand it better.
Toufic Makhoul - Posted: 16 Jun 2011
Andrew StuddertKennnedy - Posted: 18 Jul 2011
Peter Challen - Posted: 7 Nov 2011
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of St Paul's Institute or St Paul's Cathedral.