UK Bank Boss Urges Bankers To Learn From Olympic Athletes

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U.K. bankers can “learn a thing or two” about fair play and motivations from the nation’s Olympic athletes and volunteers, said Bank of England governor Sir Mervyn King on Sunday, following a series of high-profile financial scandals that have tarnished the reputation of Britain’s banking industry.

According to the country’s central banker, in an op-ed piece for the Mail on Sunday, the success of the nation’s Olympians, coupled with the pride of the 10,000 volunteers at the games, demonstrated that "motivation does not come from financial incentives alone,” but rather through “passion and commitment” to prove themselves as the best.

The financial sector, as such, “has done us all a disservice in promoting the belief that massive financial compensation is necessary to motivate individual,” said King, who also castigated bankers for creating “the illusion that it was possible to become a millionaire overnight by buying and selling pieces of paper.”

“Motivation is more than mere money,” he said “Over the years, the people who have impressed me most in business have been those motivated primarily by the desire to show that their products are the best.”

“By being passionate about what they produce, and the customers whom they serve, they achieve success, and, in so doing, they make money, almost as a by-product. There is no substitute for passion and commitment to one’s sport or business,” King added.

The central banker’s statement come just as the country continues to come to terms with the most recent scandal involving Standard Chartered and an alleged $250 billion in financial mis-dealings with the Iranian government.

Last month, another British bank Barclays was also forced to pay a $453 million fine for manipulating the Libor interbank lending rates, while HSBC has been implicated in a money-laundering scandal for drug cartels and terrorist groups.

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Consequently, King now believes that future bank reforms must focus on changing bankers mindsets from “making money in the short term” to “building businesses to serve their customers’ interests over the longer term.”

“For many years, our financial sector sustained the illusion that it was possible to become a millionaire overnight by buying and selling pieces of paper. But we have seen how paper fortunes in financial markets can disappear overnight.”

“Things need to change,” King said. “The Government’s plans to build a wall between banks’ risky trading on one side, and their lending to businesses and families on the other, will help. As will the injection of new competition into our banking system,” he noted.

But despite these changes, the Bank of England governor warned that the U.K. economy was still struggling to recover from the global financial crisis; and said that the Olympic Games could not mask the "underlying economic situation we face.”

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“At home, unlike the Olympians who have thrilled us, our economy is not at full fitness right now,” said King. “But if we have learnt anything from the past fortnight, it is that commitment and hard work over a long period are necessary for eventual success.”

“Competition benefits us all – in the world trading system and our own economy as well as in sport. Now is the time to start training for the economic marathon – and to follow the example of Team GB in our everyday lives.”