St Paul's Institute

The Values of Money: Making Contact

by The Revd Andrew Studdert-Kennedy

Posted: 09 Jun 2011

<< Part One: The Uses of Money

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:

  1. Is our value or purpose in life so tied to economic growth that a slow down in economic activity is an indication of failure?
  2. If the answer to the above is 'No', how do we accommodate those other values into the system once growth returns?
  3. 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.

About this author

Revd. Andrew Studdert-Kennedy is Rural Dean and Team Rector of Marlborough.

Toufic Makhoul - Posted: 16 Jun 2011

Having worked a long time in the banking sector, I have presented my experience, as a christian, in the April 2010 issue of The Way magazine, published by the UK Jesuits, under the title of "Finding God in the World of Banking". You might want to refer to it, and advise me whether it could be of any help to you. Thank you.

Andrew StuddertKennnedy - Posted: 18 Jul 2011

I tracked down Toufic Makhoul's piece in The Way - a really helpful insight into the pressures of retaining integrity when working in the banking industry and also the need to have alert antennae when seeking signs of God's presence.

Peter Challen - Posted: 07 Nov 2011

I would value a discussion about this summary of our witness in the world where finance serves vested interests while the rich poor gap grows ever wider and the planet sees its natural boundaries pierced destructively:

The principle of ending exploitation, and especially its financial form of 'usury' on money bearing compound interest issued by commercial banks, and the passing of location value to rentiers rather than to the community that created it, raises certain basic aspects of restructuring in the financial system requiring urgent attention.

As the churches and all people of good faith reassess their contribution to public truth these suggestions should be seriously studied by intra-discipinary bodies:

Principle: Good faith in any tradition must be universal - that is, serving justly people and the planet.

To develop that principle, some major systemic changes are needed:
- Return to publicly created money - end issuance of new money bearing interest by commercial banks
- Return location value created by the community to the community - not to rentiers
- Introduce a new form of material wealth's inclusive distribution - so that consumers and producers are the same people
- Respond to the mantra that 'the first call on a nation's wealth should be a basic income for all citizens.'
- Rescind laws creating 'corporate personhood' and the primacy of returns to directors and shareholders
- Educate people to understand that Commons are more fundamental than commodities
- Renew the priority of investing before all else in human capital
- Democratise the Corporation of the City of London.

Behind these brief indicators serious studies and proposals are available for intra-disciplinary appraisal.

Yours sincerely,

Canon Peter Challen
Christian Council for Monetary Justice


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.