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Friday, 11 January 2013

Faith and Finance

I was intrigued last evening to attend a panel discussion with the title "What Can Faith and Finance Learn from Each Other" arranged by the Faiths Forum for London, Council of Christians and Jews and PwC, in whose stunning premises we met on the London's Riverside.

There was an impressive panel assembled;

  • Alpesh Patel, Principal, Praefinium partners, author and broadcaster
  • Revd Charles Hodson, Church of England and freelance business TV anchor
  • Lord Fink, CEO, ISAM and former CEO of Man Group
  • Tarek el-Diwany, partner of Zest Advisory, author on Islamic finance
The panel addressed not only what finance could learn from faith but also the converse, drawing upon their experience of the world of business.

I was struck by the statement made by PwC's premises; a new gleaming glass tower with a wonderful atrium. This was the wealth generated by the private sector in the midst of growing inequality in London. It was pleasing that the London Living Wage was highlighted when Kit Malthouse, Deputy Mayor for Business and Finance, replied to the panel. Corporate social responsibility is in vogue but must mean much more than being willing to host community and faith groups, valuable as this is. 

Points which struck me:
  • the importance of trust in the City and in life; sadly missing in the "Banking Crisis" 
  • be good at your job and do your duty and the fruits will follow
  • be brave in the face of others in standing up for what is right
  • significance of positive and negative role models to personal development 
  • it is not creating wealth and maximising profits that matter according to Abrahamic faiths but what you do with it, which however, contrasted with view of the Dharmic faiths that we need to free from wealth and desire
In terms of what faith can learn from finance just think about capitalism's single minded focus on profit and then what faith groups are about? It was also emphasised that modern finance capitalism in Britain took two hundred years to develop; it was not done overnight, yet overturned perhaps thousands of years of religious teaching, for example against interest and usury. Faith's response needed to be similarly long-term and professional.

It was interesting that members of PcW's five faith networks attended and that the role of faith was recognised so explicitly in the workplace. Yet as one attendee emphasised the former role of workplace industrial chaplain has disappeared within the Churches.

To find out more read the twitter stream on the event hashtag #faithfinance


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