Why reform banking when we could transform it instead?

Once upon a time – a couple of years ago in fact – I was so alarmed by the high cost of payday loans advertised by brands like QuickQuid and Wonga, that I started a small campaign called 2356percent (it’s a link to an article from the Independent, by the way, the 2356percent site is no more).

One thing led to another and, thanks to Greg Mulholland MP, an Early Day Motion, signed by about 30 MPs, was tabled in the House of Commons. Because of that campaign, I was invited to meet with Errol Damelin, the chief executive of Wonga. We had a fascinating conversation and the 2356percent campaign has been pretty much dormant since.

That’s not because Wonga persuaded me that their loans were a good thing; instead, I realised that campaigning against behaviour in a financial services ecosystem which spawns brands like Wonga is not the same as campaigning for an alternative kind of financial services industry.

I reached the conclusion that – no matter how persuasive the calls for the regulation of people like payday lenders from MPs like Stella Creasy – the financial services industry is unlikely to up its game until there’s an alternative way of doing things that really challenges the status quo.

Continue reading “Why reform banking when we could transform it instead?”

The case for a Chief Philosophy Officer?

I wonder whether the US and European economies would be in such a predicament today if Northern Rock or Lehman Brothers had employed a Chief Philosophy Officer?

After all, you’ll find plenty of Chief Economists dotted around the banks, trusts and fund management companies won’t you?

Had Northern Rock and Lehman boards routinely considered the moral and ethical dimensions of trading in collateralised debt obligations – or even the very existence of those instruments – alongside the economic, financial and regulatory case of doing so, would they have reached a different conclusion and made different choices?

Continue reading “The case for a Chief Philosophy Officer?”