Banker bashing has become the latest trend these days – the political equivalent of the mass reading of Fifty Shades of Grey that has recently swept a certain half of the nation.
There is no question that a lot of the stuff that the banker has gotten up to in recent times has been utterly inexcusable, whether it has been the manipulation of inter-bank lending rates or the irresponsible sub-prime mortgage scandal; the offering of mortgages to so-called ‘NINJAs’ (those with no income, no job or assets) who had little prospect of having the ability to repay borrowed money.
Lucrative for the pinstriped fatcat, the actions of the banker led in part to the near collapse of our economy – a financial meltdown – devastating the lives of many. We came so close, too close in fact, in 2008, to not being able withdraw cash from our ATMs and journeying down a path similar to that of Greece. On a less serious and terrifying note, if it weren’t for his more than questionable behaviour, mis-selling Payment Protection Insurance and all that, we’d live in a world where those irritating PPI adverts would no longer appear on the TV every five minutes!
With a former Home Secretary saying that he makes sense, even the Sex Pistols’ Johnny Rotten has got the hang of banker-bashing and jumped on the bandwagon (or the more aptly-named ‘bankwagon’), exclaiming that the banker “lives in a culture above and beyond all of us” in a world of their own and all the rest of it.
But here is an interesting and controversial question to consider: is the banker really that different from the rest of us?
We’ve all had a financial gamble at one point or another, whether it’s placing a small bet on a horse at the National, or trying our luck on the lottery. In other words, all of us have, big or small, some kind of desire to maximise wealth (be it for ourselves or others) and reap a bit of profit; a desire to achieve greater financial prosperity, often involving a risk of some degree.
Maybe the only ones that are actually good at taking risks are those with the lavish offices in the concrete jungle of the City…
Maybe the banker is just an extraordinary professional embodiment of these natural human desires. Maybe we’re all like him – all of us amateur bankers – but the only ones that are actually good at calculating and taking risks are those with the lavish offices in the concrete jungle of the City and in the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf.
The difference is between him and us, however, is that he has the audacity to capitalise on what are particularly rampant appetites, and has the lack of a moral compass to do so. We don’t.
With former Barclays Chief Executive, Bob Diamond, stating last year that the “period of remorse and apology for banks…needs to be over”, it would appear that the banker isn’t so much like the rest of us when we move from looking at the workings of his brain to his guts.
The average Joe has the guts – the stomach – to apologise for the crazy antics and havoc that he wreaked at the crazy party the night before, brought on by excess alcohol pumping through his veins, with no pressure from others to do so. When we look at the banker however, there seems to be an air of reluctance for him to do the same, this time in response to outrageous behaviour resulting from excess greed pumping around his body.
The question that remains is how and when will the British economy and its financial sector recover from this economic hangover? Is Britain’s liver up to the job?
Not even a fry-up and a cuppa can do the trick on this one.