Banks need ethical leaders

By Rod Benson

It’s fair to say that my interests centre on politics, ethics and literature.  I don’t often read the business section of the daily papers. But a Sydney Morning Herald article by Ian Verrender caught my eye this week.  He notes that the four big banks are expected to deliver annual earnings figures that could top $20 billion this year.

“All our banks quietly now admit that this is about as good as it gets,” says Verrender. “And for a chief executive, that is a frightening prospect … An executive is only as good as next year’s result.”

What’s next?  About the only option left for banks is overseas expansion, and that involves significant risk.  But of course the government – the taxpayer – now explicitly guarantees both customers and shareholders.

We need our banks.  But they are not merely wealth factories for the privileged, and those who lead them must be ethically aware, community minded, and willing to learn hard lessons from the failures of the past.

Broadcast on 2CH Sydney, 17 October 2010.

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