Bankers have taken on an almost cartoon villain like quality ever since the financial crisis of 2008. But has a lot of that criticism been unjust banker bashing?
According to a report recently published by Selby Jennings titled “Lehman Brothers Ten Years On: Banking and Financial Services Outlook 2018”, the majority of bankers believe that there is a healthy amount of distrust and hatred being thrown at them by both the media and the general public.
In this study, they found that half of the bankers who took the survey had received occasional jeering banker bashing comments but no longer believe that bankers maintain the ‘pariah’ status they once had. Thirty-seven percent of those bankers surveyed believe that banker bashing is “alive and well and will continue for the foreseeable future”. On the other side of the spectrum, only ten percent of these bankers responded by saying they had never experienced “banker bashing” throughout their careers.
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So, why is there such an overwhelmingly negative view of bankers?
“The ripple effect of the financial crisis, looking back ten years ago, is that there is a lot of criticism of the banking industry in general,” explains Oliver Cooke, the Head of North America at Selby Jennings, “there is a lot of criticism particularly around the pay that bankers get, about the some of the unethical practices that took place prior to 2008 which led to the crisis and it was clear that to folks in the media and also to the wider public bankers were seen as the enemy. There was a real backlash against the financial service industry in general and the perception of it.”
After the ‘08 collapse, the government put the financial industry on watch by passing tough regulations such as the Dodd-Frank Act and the grassroots Occupy Wall Street campaign brought economic inequality to the forefront of political discussion. Now that the financial industry is under more regulation than ever, why won’t people give bankers a break?
Cooke believes that this perception is unfair, but the damage has already been done. “I think people need to realize that banking isn’t like ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’. I think some people believe it still is. Some aspects of that movie might have been true for some firms back in the late eighties, but the times have truly changed. Banking has gone through a very big process of looking at itself,” he says.
One of the other starting discoveries that Cooke and his colleagues were able to find in this report is that many bankers are less confident in their current positions and are looking to break into different career paths.
“One of the surprising results that we found in this report only twenty percent of the respondents said that they were one-hundred percent happy in finance and had never considered moving to another industry,” Cooke explains, “Almost half have been actively searching for a different role within the industry or outside of it. Actually, almost half of the respondents had said they had lost someone from within their team to another industry. I think [banker bashing] has had an impact on how proud people are to work for the banking industry.”
The question is: do these bankers deserve our sympathy after playing their part in the collapse of our economy over a decade ago? Maybe one day people will be willing to forgive and forget.