THE Lord Mayor has told the City “there is no silver bullet” that will magically fix public perception of bankers and the financial services sector.
Speaking at the launch of a ‘Business of Trust’ agenda that will punctuate his year in office, Charles Bowman confessed that “mistakes have been made” and “we hold our hands up” to the fractured relationship big business has with the rest of the Capital and communities across the UK.
According to an extensive study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, trust in governments and business has been fragile ever since the financial crisis of 2008.
On a global level, only half (52%) of all people surveyed as part of the Edelman Trust Barometer place their faith in business, with 43% trusting the word of the media, and 41% in governments.
But the report did provide one silverlining to an otherwise bleak cloud of distrust; over the last five years trust in financial services has increased faster than in any other business sector – up 11 percentage points to 54%.
It provides Mr Bowman with a platform from which to kickstart his agenda, which officially launched at Mansion House on 17 November, even though he concedes he faces an uphill battle to alter attitudes.
“Over the last several months I have met with numerous organisations, within and beyond the City, all grappling with this issue,” he said.
“The City Corporation and I have therefore embarked on a major programme of work to identify how the City can better meet the public’s changing expectations of business and increase its trustworthiness.
“We hold our hands up and admit mistakes have been made. But there is no silver bullet.”
In an effort to standardise his movement, Mr Bowman is encouraging City firms to adhere to a set of guiding principles, which he says encompass public concerns and incorporate the “extensive work that the sector has already undertaken” in developing codes of conduct that could shape values and behaviours.
“We have talked with the public to make their views our starting point for effecting meaningful change within financial and professional services, which ultimately must resonate with people’s concerns.
“We are eager to work with the City community – challenging and supporting organisations to improve their practices through action.”
An extensive action plan includes partnering with firms to promote and export responsible business practices, as well as the creation of a ‘Leaders of Tomorrow’ network of next generation City leaders.
Policy chair Catherine McGuinness said the Corporation plays a vital role in supporting the sector.
“We can only do that if we understand and take seriously the wider role that business has in society,” she added.
Cover image by Daniel Chapman (Creative Commons).