Learn from Britain’s Olympians, Mervyn King tells bankers

Bank of England governor urges City to embrace fair play and work ethic of athletes at London Games

The governor of the Bank of England has urged those in the scandal-hit finance sector to learn lessons from Britain’s Olympians.

Sir Mervyn King said the sportsmanship and work ethic displayed by the stars of the London Games needed to be embraced by those plying their trade in the City.

His comments come in the wake of the Libor scandal that has seen Barclays hit with a £290m fine for manipulating the key benchmark borrowing rate. At least 15 institutions, including Royal Bank of Scotland, are also being investigated over the controversy.

“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,” King wrote in the Mail on Sunday.

“But we have seen how paper fortunes in financial markets can disappear overnight. Things need to change.”

He added: “As recent scandals have shown, banks could learn a thing or two about fair play from the Olympic movement.”

King said the British economy could learn a number of key lessons from the Games.

“First, and most important, we have been reminded that an objective that is worth attaining, like a gold medal, requires years of hard work. Success does not come overnight,” he said.

“That is as true of our economy as it is of sport. It means reforming our banking system so that banks focus less on making money in the short term, and more on building businesses to serve their customers’ interests over the longer term.”

The Bank of England boss also said bankers should focus less on money and more on their customers.

“The financial sector has done us all a disservice in promoting the belief that massive financial compensation is necessary to motivate individuals,” he added.

“Look at the success of the volunteers whose presence at the Olympic Park and around London did so much to create the atmosphere of happiness that pervaded the Games, and who represented all of us so well when greeting and helping the many visitors from overseas.

“Motivation is more than mere money. Bankers should concentrate on laying a solid foundation for customers, not focusing on making quick cash.”

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