Integrity, bankers and knowing who to trust

09/07/12 | Posted by Ian Black

Questions of integrity are back in the news. Outrage and shock have been caused by revelations that traders working for Barclays Bank had been involved in trying to rig LIBOR (London Inter-Bank Offered Rate), the interest rate that banks charge each other for the loans which lie behind the mortgages and loans they give out. The Serious Fraud Office have launched an investigation. I am still trying to work out exactly who has lost out on this and who has gained.

 Barclays Bank sign

It looks like those who lost are those lending to the banks and then only a small amount of interest, since the margins involved don’t appear to be great.  Some traders may have received bonuses based on false or adjusted information.  It will also have affected the share price of Barclays and other banks because of the distorted picture.  So who knows how far the ripples of gain and losses extend there.  According to the BBC website it is unlikely any domestic mortgages were affected.  It puts dodgy dealing in the banking sector back in the headlines and under the microscope.

‘How can we trust you’, ‘how do we know what you say is true’, are not new questions.  They are natural and primary questions.  Jesus faced them too.  When he went to his home town on a teaching visit, he was described as speaking with authority (Mark 6:1-13), but they couldn’t quite work out where this authority came from.  Some took offence.

Authority in the banking markets is based on perception of how solvent a bank is and we now know that they weren’t as safe as, well, banks are supposed to be.  Jesus’ authority appeared to be personal and usually teachers carry the authority of their status based on their learning and position.  Jesus was a wandering teacher, who didn’t belong to those established groups.  He was, therefore, difficult to assess and difficult to pigeonhole.

People who are genuine have a way of making us sit up and take notice.  When politicians spin many of us stop listening.  We know it’s a script and it doesn’t come over as genuine and honest, as heart felt and believable.  When they speak with personal conviction it has a very different impact.  Integrity and honesty are valuable commodities.  They are assets that we debase at our peril.  It is true of banking, it is true of politics, it is true of religious figures.

Being truthful matters.  Without it everything is destabilised.  So when bankers make statements we need to know that it is based in something, not made up or deceitful.  The same goes for religious figures.  For Jesus his credentials were shown in what he said and did, supremely in his rising from the grave.  It is on that currency that the church, in its many guises, trades today.  Unlike the markets Christ’s value has remained constant.

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