June 2011

You can bank on it!

I was reading the paper a year or so back and noted that a survey/opinion poll has been taken to ascertain the public’s attitude to the Banks. As you can imagine, it was not overly surprising that there was huge hostility to the Banks and especially the bonuses that many bankers seem to accrue, even while their banks were in effect going bankrupt. We are still paying off the debts of the banks in our economy now, and I've personally yet to meet anyone who seriously defended the attitude and hubris of the banking community. (Though some banking industry pundits are suggesting that nothing was really wrong, just a couple of rotten eggs in the basket was all that really happened, and there is no real need for a fundamental reform of the system....)

However, what struck me though, wasn’t the anger and aggression by ‘Joe Public’ at the banks – fair enough, I share the feeling – but the underlying fact that we still basically trust the banks to keep our money secure. In fact, the trust rating with the money we actually have in the banks was very, very high. Almost everyone in each demographic in the survey expected that any money they had in a bank would always be repaid.

There are various reason’s for that of course. I guess the reality is that in the extreme case of the banking crisis and various banks on the verge of collapse - from Northern Rock to Royal Bank of Scotland/NatWest etc, the government stepped in as guarantor and even ended up owning most/all of the shares in many of these institutions. Our country now has a largely nationalised banking sector, and governments can’t fail, can they.

I really hope that we don’t see any banking failures – after all it’s the average ‘man (or woman) in the street’ that get’s hurt the most when things go bust. But it is worth musing over the basic trust we have in the institutions of the state (Banks, NHS, Police etc) to protect us from the uncertainties of life. We assume, even if we rage against them, that they will do the best for us.

The questions is, fundamentally what do we put our trust in?

To misquote Matthew 6:19-21 “ Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust and sub-prime mortgage scandal can destroy it, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. ... For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.”

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that governments or institutions or even family and friends can always be the worthy focus of our trust. All individuals, groups (including, sorry to say, the Church) and governments can ultimately let us down. But God who sent his Son Jesus to live, die and live again, is the one reliable fact we can invest in.

What are you banking on?

June 2011