Goldman Sach’s chief executive Lloyd Blankfein expressed a wistful closing thought in a recent interview with Nikkei News: “It’s going to be a long time before most people in the world are in love with bankers, but that is not going to stop us from working hard to be a better institution.”
Blankfein and bankers around the world are working on rehabilitating their image, years after the bank-sparked financial crisis of 2008 that destroyed an estimated $34 trillion in wealth and cost governments $20 trillion in bailouts and stimulus (as well as giving Goldman Sachs its hard-to-shake “vampire squid” nickname.) Since then, “we’ve worked hard to engage, and I think it’s a better dynamic now,” Blankfein told Nikkei News. “It will take some time,” he added. “The trauma of the crisis was real and economic growth is still not what it should be.”
Blankfein is joined in his quest for love by 90,000 bankers in the Netherlands, who are now required to take an oath to do their “utmost to maintain and promote confidence in the financial-services industry. So help me God,” Reuters reports. The full oath includes a pledge to weigh the interests of society as well. The City of London is also doing its part—it recently formed an official task force to “repair the reputation of banking,” while the new head of RBS, Ross McEwan, publicly promised to “change our behaviour at every level…and clean up every aspect of how we treat customers.”
There’s plenty of work to do. The US banking industry continues to be “deeply unpopular,” American Banker reported in June, citing a survey it conducted with the Reputation Institute. Financial services rank below every other industry:
The percentage of people that rate bankers as “high” or “very high” on Gallup’s latest integrity poll, released in December, meanwhile, continues to be low, below auto mechanics. They do, however, rank above newspaper and television reporters, car salesmen, ad executives, Congressmen, and lobbyists.