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From pinstripes to poverty: a refugee banker’s first 100 days at Oxfam

January 25, 2013
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Oxfam is always keen to employ unusual suspects, none more so than Will Martindale, a banker turned “do gooder” (right, and no, that isn’t his Oxfam desk). Here willtradinghe reflects on his first 100 days working among the (supposed) angels.

Banking. Most hate it. Few understand it. And I miss it.

I miss the pace, the energy, and the super smart people fluent in numerous languages. I miss the neon ties, the pinstripe suits and the sales guys with shiny shoes. I miss the IT geeks with their dozen monitors and knee-high coffee flasks. I miss the chic hotels, the business-class flights and French restaurants.

But I left – and was looking to move for a while – because underneath all the flash, my work had absolutely zero social worth. I worked in the more exotic side of credit default swap trading: a financial product far removed from the real economy.

So 100 days ago I joined Oxfam, eight years after I started JPMorgan’s graduate scheme, and I’m excited to have made the change.

At first “NGO-speak” was a babble of acronyms, the array of recycling bins brought on a mild sweat, and I can confirm that hot-desking is not cool. But there are super smart people fluent in numerous languages at Oxfam too. There is energy, but of a different sort; less pace but more space – to think, to challenge. There is an excitement that our work – my work – is changing people’s lives for the better. And contrary to my preconceptions, Oxfam is agile, radical and fundamentally progressive.

So the transition has been stark, but I survived, not least because I find my role fascinating.

With my colleague, former City-boy Rob Nash (ex Lehman Brothers), our objective is this: to create the space for progressive bankers to make financial stability, transparency, financial inclusion, a return to real economy banking and socially productive investment the norm, not the exception. And to sideline tax evasion, disproportionate remuneration, unsustainable leverage, high volatility and endemic price rigging.

This is a challenge. On the surface, the all male, all macho City stereotype prevails. A Christmas party involved a London treasure hunt in taxi cabs. A quiet day in the markets turned into a Krispy Kreme doughnut eating competition. A colleague’s mistake prompted a manager to send an email in size 100 font with the letters: “WTF”. And being a “tree-hugging banker” (as I was named), a trader thought it would be funny to slowly and methodically pour spaghetti bolognese into the paper-only recycling bin opposite my desk.

Eat_The_BankersYet, as with most sectors, dig a little deeper and you’ll find thousands of influential and hard-working bankers who care deeply about good banking and – like Oxfam – want a pro-poor financial sector that is inclusive, sustainable and responsible.

Both internally and externally, many ask why this is relevant to Oxfam.

On the negative, predatory land investments in the world’s poorest countries have made thousands of people homeless and hungry; commodity speculation has driven volatile food prices; the City finances arms companies and corrupt mining companies; and facilitates tax avoidance that starves poor countries of much needed tax receipts.

On the positive, there’s more low carbon and climate financing; new technologies make funds available to poor people in remote rural areas; and bridging loans provide upfront funding needed for humanitarian disasters. And in my short time at Oxfam, I have met many financiers who are focusing their efforts and expertise in innovative products and business models designed to meet the most urgent social and environmental challenges of our time.

The financial services are central to this. But arguably, there is the subtle but more important concept of financial stability. I remember a senior trader once told me that “as long as you don’t mess with people’s lives, finance is ok”.

But even the far removed credit default swap market messes with people lives. Credit default swaps replicate the risk of trading bonds, but whereas bonds are paid for upfront, sellers of credit default swaps pay in arrears. And as we found out, nobody had the money to pay. As the markets tanked, more payments were triggered needing yet more scarce cash, so the markets tanked some more. And thus began a credit crunch which affected everyone, particularly poor people.

Take the LIBOR scandal. LIBOR is the benchmark interest rate for pretty much every floating rate trade that exists. So when it was kept artificially high, interest rate payers paid too much, including poor countries servicing debt payments.

Finance is everywhere. Banks, central banks, international finance institutions and governments are a public private hybrid, controlling national wealth, capital allocation and redistribution (or not).

We believe 2013 presents a unique opportunity to place Oxfam’s voice at the heart of financial reform as the City rebuilds its business and reputation in the wake of the credit crunch and the ongoing Eurozone crisis.

As you read this, the World Economic Forum is being held in Davos. As ever, the titans of global finance will be prominent in the corridors of Swiss resorts, trading ideas over cocktails and canapés. It is a good day to reflect on what positive engagement with the City might look like. As with Oxfam’s first foray into the sector, the policy document “Better Returns in a Better World”, we are looking to divide the City; to challenge the status quo and to identify, support and encourage progressive, sustainable and pro-poor financial services.

The detail is still to be decided. Here are some of our ideas:

  • We feel it’s necessary to start with a map. Who does what where in the City, and more importantly, how and why?
  • We will pioneer public “City” workshops to move beyond a bank’s CSR department and reach an audience of finance experts with anuntapped interest in development. We want better banking, not token hand-outs: “we financed a biofuels project which displacedbarclays 1000s of people, but not to worry, we built a health clinic in the neighbouring village.”
  • We will ask banks and other investors to share their research and provide access to their trading and operation desks. And in the same way that Oxfam hosts trips for policy makers to visit our programmes, we will extend such invitations to those with influence in the financial sector.
  • With a greater understanding of the City’s power-base and having built a wider network of City professionals, we will root our work in Oxfam’s priority campaigns; on land, food, tax and climate change. We will publish a series of “investor briefings” in a language and style consistent with the City: more graphs, fewer words.
  • Finally, through active campaigning we will hold financial organisations to account; exposing and challenging harmful practices and supporting and encouraging policies with clear and demonstrable development impacts. We seek to end the business-as-usual approach which disproportionately hurts the world’s poorest and contribute to the rise of sustainable and responsible investment as the new mainstream of financial markets.

But to what extent should Oxfam work with the City? Is a pro-poor financial sector a distant dream? What’s your experience of bankers and banking? How can we measure progress? And which issues should Oxfam – a global aid and development charity with a mission to end poverty and suffering – prioritise within the City?

My colleague Rob Nash and I would welcome your suggestions, comments and concerns as we engage with this complex and powerful sector.


  1. Rob, hello from a fellow colleague and welcome to the Ox-family. You and Rob should do a lunch time talk about your time in the banking sector. I bet you’d easily fill a conference room with people interested to know more about your time in banking… I’m really not kidding!

  2. Thanks so much for the open reflection and presenting a way forward for taking-on and engaging with Bankers.

    As an ex-Banker who came to Oxfam in 19809I know this will come as a surprise to many here who know me) on a secondment from the Nationalized Syndicate Bank, in India, I can very well relate to the perception of the do-gooders as Duncan says. I was at the sharp end of it when I came to the Oxfam team in the than Bangalore office. But the point I want to make is that to personify anyone on the basis of the task or job you do is itself so wrong and unhelpful, to say the least. In my family we have scientist who turned into musicians to engineers who have set-up recruitment companies that help physically challenged people and women software specialist who are working for world Bank in India. We come together and have rip-roaring arguments with good food during family events. Indeed many of them raised funds for me to undertake the work I have been doing in India with Centre for Social Markets.

    But then Indian banking went into a historical transformation from late 70s from class banking to Mass banking (I know there is much criticisms about the banks in India as not being accessible but a it retracted into more conventional phase in the neo-liberal phase from 90s. The so called Grameena bank was set up before it became popular from the Bangladesh experience. The Banking transformation and history in India is a story that is untold despite all its wart and wrinkles.

    The Oxfam story in South India with Banks is a story worth narrating as our instinct is to reject whatever is Historical as irrelevant. Indeed I used banking insight to develop crucial partnership with Banks and community. The relationship that the Bangalore office( South India) had developed with Banks in the post reconstruction in the Cyclone impacted Godaveri Delta during which, Oxfam took an unprecedented decision and kept deposits in the Banks and in return the banks were asked to lend four times the deposit working through the local social organizations as back up support. Transactional costs were reduced and access and affordability was enhanced too. For the first time scores of women became the clients of the Bank. In the early 80s, I went to Coastal Andhra Pradesh visiting the community and all the banks where we kept the deposits- withdrew the same and reused it for developmental investment –the total deposit if my memory serves me correctly was about a million rupees!

    There is a very good evaluation of the work undertaken at that time by two young and upcoming communication specialist one of whom is a global personality and Vice chancellor-he said to me recently that the experience of doing the evaluation changed and shaped his own world view distinctly( Diviseema Development agency was a pioneer and torch bearers for the Banking integration –check archive).All this happened post disaster- it was led by imaginative leaders in Oxfam at that time, I followed it up. There wasn’t a worldwide consultation, I am not rejecting consultation but I’m keen that analysing too much only leads to paralysis- so, Act!

    In my understanding the suggested way forward sounds very doable and indeed if we crack London- we can take the lessons across. I am happy to discuss for sharing and learning as in India, Centre for social Markets is busy planning to reach , rally and mobilise Corporate including global financiers and new banking agents in order to tap into the new progressive legislation with reference to CSR.

    We all are staring at another GRIM year-for young, seniors , women- all living in poverty. We need green shoots-go for it.

  3. I am a banker, and it is interesting to know that Oxfam is starting to work with the financial sector. We need more of this sort of thing. I would like to see compulsory reporting of banks CSR work. Could Oxfam lobby to do this? Good stuff.

  4. Fascinating. Pleased Oxfam wants to impress upon bankers that what they do trickles down and ultimately affects the poorest disproportionately. Certainly banking is shrouded in mystery-the language is opaque to the uninitiated.We deserve more transparency and accountability especially since banks-of the retail kind are an indispensable part of our lives. This article is exactly the kind that opens up the debate. So nice to see that there are some former bankers who have consciences and do want to change the world!

  5. Hi Ross – thank you.

    Hi Richard – Great thank you. We’re running monthly seminars at Oxfam house (they’re called “Banks, Bankers and Banking”). Rob and I did an intro session in December. Our January seminar is on Monday with Marloes Nicholls who set up Move Your Money. In February it’s Lydia Prieg from NEF. I’ll add you to the invite.

    Hi Rupert – This is great, others have mentioned this too. Interesting.

    Hi Pushpanth – Very useful and very interesting. It would be good to speak to learn more. Do email, and we’ll sort a call (wmartindale@oxfam.org.uk).

  6. Great read, would be good to prove that not all bankers are evil as portrayed in the media. Also, we don’t all receive 6 figure sum bonuses (my 12 year old rusting Ford Fiesta is testament to this).

    Lastly, having worked with Will, I certainly do not recognise him sitting in front of 3 screens. Usually he was walking around with his shirt untucked and looking generally dishevelled…?

  7. It’s great that people with different life experiences are joining Oxfam – I really hope you will be able to use your ‘new’ eyes to help the organisation to look at itself more critically.

    I’ve got to be critical on 2 points:

    1. I’m afraid I simply don’t believe that Oxfam is “looking to challenge the status quo”. Oxfam is a pillar of the staus quo.

    2. It’s really disappointing that this in depth blog on the recent crisis has completely ignored Occupy, the one social movement that did react spontaneously, democratically and earnestly. It’s great that Oxfam are now using Occupy’s terminology and ideology (with less earnestness and honesty), but a real shame it can’t credit the movement for this.

  8. Hi Will,

    Excellent to see Oxfam linking up with the financial services sector and understanding how we can not only mitigate the negative impacts of this industry but also deliver sustainable development through its reform.

    At Aviva, we have led the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Coalition, which calls for all mid-cap firms to report on their business-relevant environmental, social and governance issues to give investors the information they need to make long-term, responsible decisions. It would be great to see Oxfam join in these campaigning efforts.

  9. Great to know that Oxfam is engaging the financial sector. Well done. like any other company, a bank needs better tools and procedures to 1. assess the impacts, and residual impacts, of their credit/loan decisions; 2. to report on progress; 3. to monitor results. The current Equator Bank principles and other voluntary approaches only go so far and have limits for non compliance with principles. It would be wonderful to see Oxfam develop alternative mechanisms for operationalizing these issues and in proposing policy instruments for keeping banks in check on socio-environmental performance.

  10. A fantastic, modern take on CSR. Good luck with all your hard work! Of course the longterm challenge is to get the banks to see what’s in it for them…How about working one day a week for a bank?!

  11. This is really great that Oxfam are starting to work on this, for 2 reasons.
    1 – If Oxfam are going to continue to campaign on poverty, domestically and internationally, this needs to include recommended reforms of finance. If finance is ignored – which it has been, both by Oxfam and other NGOs – the campaigns lack legitimacy.
    2 – The public have joined the dots. From our never-ending recession, to our dishonest squabbling politicians, to the increasing inequality in the UK, people know that all roads lead to The City. Public anger at bankers is at a terminal low, but few public figures acknowledge this. Oxfam can start pushing these issues into the public sphere; the interest is there, the voices are not (yet).

    As mentioned in an above comment, some great campaigning work done by Move Your Money on this. http://www.moveyourmoney.org.uk/
    As MYM have shown, banking scandals will not go away, so there’ll always be room for getting some media attention on alternatives. Something for you to think about maybe.

    To answer your closing questions, yes you should be holding them to account. You should be exposing the role the financial sector plays in lobbying against Oxfam’s aims. You should be showing your supporters that your commitment to end poverty extends far beyond begging government ministers for legislative changes that may never come. And we can measure progress by how often our public figures and politicians feel they can speak out against the crimes, excesses and ineptitudes of the financial sector.

    Good luck everyone involved in this.

  12. Hi Will,

    Thanks for taking the time to share your reflections on your first 100 days at Oxfam. It takes a lot of courage to leave a job with a lot of prestige (in the eyes of many) and financial security in order to take on new adventures with more personal meaning and social value, so good for you for making the move.

    If you haven’t already done so, you might want to take a look at the Global Alliance for Banking Values’ website (I’m not sure if typing in the url will get my response thrown in the spam folder so I’ll write it out as follows: The url is gabv with an org after the dot.)The organization is a network of banks that use finance to deliver sustainable development for underserved communities. I would say that in addition to making changes from the top down (changing policies) you also need to work from the bottom up: encourage people to seek out local banks (or credit unions) that are more interested in serving their communities and contributing to vibrant local economies. You can check out the websites of some of the member institutions and see what they’re doing around ethical, sustainable banking and how they’re reporting their CSR activities.

    For those of us who are not “in the know” what’s the “JP Morgan graduate program”? I have visions of it being some kind of grooming/training program that inculcates eager young MBA’s and BBA’s with the worst excesses of the free market thinking advocated by certain economists and business schools in the late 70s and 80s.

  13. Reclaim Education – Thanks for the comment. On 1. that’s contrary to the experience I’ve had since joining. On 2. I think that’s fair and Occupy should be duly credited. Can we discuss further (what’s your email?) The comments I have received from former colleagues in the City is that Occupy identifies the problem, but not the solution. To argue better I would like to understand more your plans for Phase Two …

    Louise – Compulsory CSR reporting is a brilliant idea. I would like to see Oxfam join the campaign …

    Daniela – Brilliant, thank you. This is very helpful, and we’ll incorporate these points into our plans. I think “tools and procedures” are so important, but I would like to see Oxfam help strengthen existing regulations and principles. There seems to be so many binding – and non-binding – procedures out there. I was not aware of any of these when I was in the City, I’m learning about them since leaving, and I think that’s the problem.

    Gavin – Completely agree with all you say. “All roads lead to the City”. It’s sad, but true. I think consumer power has great potential and Move Your Money is leading the debate here. Having said that, MYM was new to me on joining Oxfam. I wonder how we can promote MYM’s profile within the City? (A full page ad in City AM, a leafleting session at Bank tube station, one of the public City meetings I mention … ?) The challenge I’m finding is that the normal suite of campaign tools (twitter, email your MP etc.) does not work in the City … Getting the message across is a challenge.

    Sue – http://www.gabv.org/ – This is great, really good stuff. It’s new to me, but I will read with interest. The JPMorgan graduate programme is impressive. It started with a (paid) internship, then an open job offer. It positively discriminated to ensure 50% of employees were women. Recruitment was global. Regular training was provided. It was a two-year programme, with three eight-month rotations in different business areas (which took me to New York). Do keep in touch re. GABV (wmartindale@oxfam.org.uk).

  14. Many thanks for replying Will. My email: paul@reclaimeducation.com It would be great to hear from you.

    I’m glad you accept my point about the absence of any mention of Occupy in your post – maybe you could give them the credit and attention they deserve in your next post? It would be great to hear someone at Oxfam acknowledging their existence (I don’t work for or with them by the way).

    I really think there is a clear contradiction between your stated intentions of “creating space for progressive bankers” and “challenging the status quo”. You and others at Oxfam appear deperate to appear everything to everyone (radical and safe). Can I please ask that you consider this point, consider the extent to which Oxfam supports and benefits from the status quo and finally consider how Oxfam can practically justify the radical / status quo challenging label it frequently gives itself?

    We’re really looking forward to hearing from you.

  15. Also, I feel that the stock answer of saying that “Occupy identitfy the question, but don’t have the answer” is a convenient means of marginalising a movement that recognises that deep structural changes must be made before simple solutions are found.

    It’s a real shame that Oxfam chooses to marginalise such a potent, earnest force and I think Oxfam do this precisely because Occupy is a threat to the status quo of which Oxfam is a paid up member.

    If Oxfam were so good at creating the solutions, why have they proved so utterly ineffective at the meso and macro level? Isn’t it time you accepted that REAL challenge to the status quo is the only way forward, even if (as your original mandate suggested) that would make you reducndant?

  16. Interesting to read about Oxfam’s interest in the financial sector. Banks have lost a lot of power that is normally obtained by increased savings. It’s interesting that exactly 20 years ago (1993)…the world was at the same place when you look at the economy.

    Back to the real issues “pro-poor bankers”. It’s like pro-poor tourism (is there an against poor tourism). It all goes back to knowledge. Are the banks at fault or is it more the people that use the banks that are least/less informed about what their money does? or doesn’t do.

    I think one of the best example is the US Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). Banks have to disclose data and get graded on what they do or don’t do. I had the opportunity to work with bankers during our banking reform in Canada (1998)…for better banking legislation. Banks do exactly what they are created for (shareholders value). People that have managed to change some of the banks directions (or increased CSR investment). Which brings out another question…should banks engage in CSR activities? I personally think that they shouldn’t but that deserves a long explanation.

    There are tools out there but banks are not structured to be social agents unless it’s profitable.

    Would this quote from Einstein actually serve as a good place to start “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

    We are currently working on a very innovative way to look at financial tools that could actually generate a new way to look at global financial flows. It would be great to exchange with your reformed banker about this ambitious project that might change the way we look at financial flows and development.

    Santa Cruz de la Sierra (Bolivia)

  17. Will,

    This is a hugely important job that you’re undertaking as the City of London (a non-democratic separate jurisdiction within the UK). If we are to change the status quo, which I wholeheartedly believe we should, it means convincing the City of London actors, and other financial centres to give up some of their privileges that they won with financial deregulation from the 1980s onwards, and reregulae finance to serve wider objectives of society (reduce tax evasion and avoidance, end offshore secrecy, provide credit for households, business, investments and trade, safeguard assets, reduce transaction costs etc.). We’d almost need to first outline what we mean by good finance, or what is the social value of finance, before engaging in changeing it. Otherwise we might end up just being responsive to existing issues, and not take upon some radical reforms.

    Just a few comments on the points also:

    1. the “City” is of course the Square Mile, but it’s also the web of over 20 or so British tax haven territories dotted across the world, and even further 50 non-British tax havens. So I’d include an analysis of this into your mapping exercise. Why not a trip to Jersey, Isle of Man, or Luxembourg and Switzerland, an talk with their financial services regulators and banker community? I know this might increase the scope of your mapping, but worth thinking.
    2. As with other advocacy work, internal pressure is most effective when the affected constituencies who have lost as a result of the financial crisis and mismanagement are also brought to the table. Think of the HIV/AIDS campaign, the drug companies started listening once the attention shifted to those suffering from the pandemic. So talking to some of the affected or critical constituencies (like Occupy, but many other “finance activists” also from microfinance to ethical finance), experts outside the city would complement the knowledge you gain by talking to those currently working in finance.
    3. Educating the City is also a clear objective. I think of the risk premiums that bonds from African countries in particular have, and wonder what information they build into such premiums, and how credit rating agencies work in developing countries. Here we can educate some of the bankers, and link up local investment funds in developing countries (e.g. Fidelity and Databank in Ghana are knowledgeable) to how they assess risk locally. Linking up north and south in this way would be useful.

    Financial markets also link to other campaigns and Oxfam goals. One example is how in Brazil, child benefits under the Bolsa Familia for the poorest, have created also a credit market (as future benefits can be used as collateral).

    However a word of caution. We need to be careful, as badly designed finance can obviously increase poverty (as we know about unregulated credit cards or mortgage markets can be harmful). I’m sure these issues can be tackled.

    Great to see you engaged, and looking forward to being part of changing the status quo.

  18. Hi,

    Very interesting piece! I think it’s definitely a laudable goal to be aiming to work with the City, and you may well get somewhere – you probably have a better idea than I do of how possible this is.

    Organisations like http://www.moveyourmoney.org.uk have a philosophy which basically states that the big players in finance will not fundamentally change, and that there is more mileage in supporting alternative institutions with more ethical business models. It’s interesting to bear this in mind; perhaps your work could also engage, or relate to, in some way, these alternative institutions?

  19. Hi Will,

    Thanks for the clarification on the JP Morgan Graduate program and I’m glad to hear my speculations about the program were wrong.

    I heard about GABV through a socially responsible microbusiness owner’s blog post on local, ethical banking. I’d interviewed the business owner for a book project on socially responsible micro-businesses. I’m more than happy to follow up on either discussion (GABV or socially responsible microbusinesses) through email, so will drop you a line.

  20. Hello Will,

    Congratulations for the first 100 days and wishing you many many more successful, challenging days in future.

    I want to quickly highlight that you and Rob are not alone in this and you would find many voices, including from regions and countries where Oxfam works who identify with the need to prioritize the issues of financial inclusion and responsible investments.

    Emerging economies, middle income countries and developing economies (such as in Asia) are fast becoming the spaces where financial system messes(and sometimes elevates)the lives of women and men who face high level of vulnerability. we need to do a whole lot more in enhancing the positives and mitigating the negatives of the financial systems. In order to do that, a multi pronged approach of
    -better national-regional regulations, (Oxfam already has good engagements with policy makers in most of the countries)
    -more responsible and transparent banks, beyond CSR and beyond only private sector banks to massive public sector banks,
    -demonstrating and fostering innovative responsible investment mechanisms and
    -active citizenship to hold all of the above to account is required.

    From Asia we look forward to ensuring that better return in better world becomes a rallying point for Oxfam to tackle the roots of power inequality exerted by the financial world.

  21. Will
    I add my congratulations to those from a great external and internal response on an excellent blog – good mix of your heart and head!
    Three points: bankers are people, and your emphasis on reaching the younger generation whose minds are likely to be more open, and generating a kind of class consciousness through collective workshops is most welcome. Of course some oldies might see the light too, and they have more power. Second, in Oxfam we have, when engaging with other business sectors, added, where we see merit, making the combined business and social/moral case for change, to our more tradtional approach of challenging and holding capital to account. Can this work with finance? And linked to this: the issue of short-term volatile profits versus long-term steady earnings, and how bankers are rewarded. Not ruling out tighter regulation and professional codes of ethics, but in my view positive stuff has to be there as well.

  22. I think that over the last few years everything to do with talk of banking and bankers has fallen into a false dichotomy created by the media, primarily the idea people who look after money are bad, greedy and have no social or civil conscience and that most people wouldn’t have behaved the same way if put in a position where they were to maximise profit legally.

    It would be good to see an angle that discusses civic responsibility or a clearer idea of social justice. I’m not sure if “challenging the status quo” is a useful term as it evidently means a lot of things to a lot of people. Banks and industry have an important role to play and public discourse has tended to revolve around undirected anger at both the people and the firms, which must be treated as separate entities in terms of their choices and capabilities.

    I’d be interested to see two things as parts of the work you’re doing, first to see a campaign that highlights the necessary work of banks and what society would be without them and second the positives of the financial sector as a wealth generating and lifestyle sustaining tool. My concern is that under a barrage of abuse directed at bankers in place of banks these sectors will not be likely to embrace change – mostly because it seems unclear what exactly would fix the problem and they shouldn’t just make changes for the sake of changes. Though I don’t question the need for changes I’m highly sceptical of where we’ve gotten to and that this debate doesn’t seem to have progressed since 2008.

    I would like to see Oxfam work towards influencing a better state of social discourse and making these questions accessible to the public. There seems to be an underlying general idea that the world could be in a good state without banks as parts of markets or that their form should be change entirely. Social democracy that utilises markets has brought the world a long way (I know I’m over-simplifying in that statement) and all the talk of radical changes and status quo changes from the media is unwieldy and undirected. Perhaps it is both dangerous and wasteful of the energy the crisis has generated.

    I’d like to see conversations that revolve around banks direct influences on our lives and how that affects our access to primary goods and opportunities.

    In terms of discourse, I wonder if the question, “is a pro-poor financial sector a distant dream?” is the right one to be asking. Could it be better to reverse it and ask how do we make pro-wealth industries see investment in poorer areas as a gain? (The caveat to this is that they do see the benefit and it’s called land-grabs.) There’s point here is that surely industries which are driven to maximise short-term profit by shareholders (i.e. there’s little active control over corporate conscience) are bound to head down these routes and the best method to control or restrain them is through legislation that prohibits behaviour. Here lies the role of public discourse and the need for information – Oxfam is effective but I wonder how much it can do by itself?

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