Stop demonising bankers, says CBI president

Authorities should stop the “demonisation’’ of banking and other industries to help the UK return to growth, says Roger Carr, president of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

The call comes as an Oxford University academic suggested that ethically-minded people could do more good by pursuing a career in banking rather than in aid work.

Speaking at the CBI’s annual conference yesterday, Carr said “big business is not bad business” and suggested that more praise should be heaped on sectors such as banking, energy and defence.

“We need to encourage all those in positions of authority – government, opposition, regulators and commentators – to stop the demonisation of industry, banking, energy or defence,” he said.

“If we are to fight our way out of this tough corner, business should be valued, not vilified.”

The CBI president, who is also chairman of utility company Centrica, added that this should not mean bankers are free from criticism, regulation or punishment but stressed that these actions should be carried out for the UK’s “long-term best interests, not short-term populism”.

His comments came as William Crouch, an ethicist at the Uehiro Centre in the University of Oxford’s philosophy faculty, suggests banking can be an ethical career on a par with the charity sector.

Noting that bankers typically give a “very small” proportion of their income to charity, the academic argues that a philanthropic individual who gives more out in donations will make a difference that would have not been made otherwise.

In contrast, careers such as aid work help a small number of people directly but are in high demand – meaning they are likely to be easily filled even if a number of ethically-minded people move over to financial services.

“You will typically spend 80,000 hours of your life working, so it’s crucial that you really think about your career,” Crouch says. “The direct benefit a single aid worker can produce is limited, whereas the philanthropic banker’s donations might indirectly help ten times as many people.”

To receive more relevant articles like this one, why not sign up to our briefings and breaking alerts by clicking here.