Are bankers in London beginning to take the phrase, "soul-searching" in a more literal sense than it's usually meant?
In a lengthy commentary in the Financial Times, Patrick Jenkins makes much of talk that church-going is on the upswing. "Vicars in the capital's financial district have been reporting steadily swelling numbers of worshippers for months now," Jenkins writes. He calls this "anecdotal proof, seemingly, that some of the bankers who contributed to the crisis of the past two years are seeking salvation or at least an understanding of their place in the world."
Of course, another way of looking at it is, religious authorities are talking their own book. Even if bankers truly are showing up at church more often, there's also the difficulty of disentangling different motives. Some financial services workers, as Jenkins acknowledges, may feel driven to pray by anxiety about their own career prospects. That's quite distinct from feeling guilty and seeking forgiveness, whether divine or human. And it's the latter (alleged) impulse, predictably, that headline-writers - in tandem with public officials and some religious leaders - are most eager to play up.
To be sure, some financial leaders are engaged in very public soul-searching these days. At least one, former Bank of England economist Andy Brookes, has even morphed into a religious leader himself: three weeks ago he became chief executive of the Anglican Diocese of London. "Loving your neighbour is something that got forgotten in the market boom," Brookes told the FT. "In the business context, that means serving your customers, not just yourself."
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