Home > Opinion > Opinion – Bank lending; the basic unfairness

Opinion – Bank lending; the basic unfairness

Media reports today of a number of UK Banks getting back to financial health largely fail to convey the sheer misery meted out to so many people in recent months who’ve lost their businesses and sometimes their homes as well.           

At one level we should be pleased that balance sheets are being rebuilt but at another level, this can seem as having been done in a rather heartless fashion. One worries that any social conscience banks might have had has been swallowed up in the rush to rebuild equity. Banks – generally speaking – are still NOT lending; and when they do, these loans come with stringent strings attached.           

Where is the justice in one section of the community prospering so hugely at the expense of another?  Knowing that some people are being paid massive bonuses poses very real issues when at the same time, business people dependent on bank credit are unable to move forward and in some cases are plunged into bankruptcy, often through no fault of their own.     

This is wrong.           

I know that this subject raises all kinds of hoary and difficult questions – questions concerning justice and fairness which, whilst although having been posed down through the centuries, still fail to find adequate answers in my view.  But I am reminded in these verses from Jeremiah 12 – often called Jeremiah’s complaint – that such questions have always been asked and probably will continue to be asked. However, that does not make it either right or fair to act in this way.           

 1 You are always righteous, O LORD,
       when I bring a case before you.
       Yet I would speak with you about your justice:
       Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
       Why do all the faithless live at ease?

2 You have planted them, and they have taken root;
       they grow and bear fruit.
       You are always on their lips
       but far from their hearts. (NIV)

I’m sure that there are many fine theological responses to Jeremiah’s questions. I’m just not sure that these explanations make today’s reality any more palatable?  I can remember telling my kids when they complained of unfairness, ‘well, life’s not fair’!  Maybe we should heed these words? Is this little phrase actually the only correct answer? Do we simply have to accept that a basic unfairness is written into the very laws of the universe?           

A quick look at so many other unjust situations around the world leads me to that conclusion; not that that’s any excuse to do nothing in terms of social justice. There’s still an awful lot we can learn from the likes of the Quakers, the Co-operative movement and the Amish community.           

The Micah Challenge - Halve poverty by 2015


The themes of ‘Justice’ and ‘Fairness’ are on many people’s lips these days, not least from within the new UK coalition government. I pray that this Government will right a few basic wrongs and sort out the Banks in one way or another before too many more personal disasters unfold in our country.         

Tonight the BBC stated that lending to businesses in the past year by the banks has actually remained static!  Those increased profits just announced by the banks have been generated by higher fees and charges from the fewer loans that have been granted.           

What a topsy, turvy world!     

  1. Pauline
    August 2, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    This is EXACTLY why I left banking 5 years ago – I was being asked to train my staff to ‘sell’ constantly and as I Christian I could not morally do all the things I was being told I had to do, and were in my interest to do. I think it became very personal for me when a Dad came into my office and pleaded with me not to give the loan his son wanted. That was what made my resignation easy.

    • August 3, 2010 at 9:22 pm

      Quite similar to my brother’s departure from the banking world: it was all sell, sell, sell and no sense of responsibility towards the customer: if customers ran into problems, it was their lookout, they were on their own — all that mattered was the bank making money.

      He’s now a school caretaker, much happier and so much more satisfying to be able to see the fruit of his labours! Bizarrely, better pay too: it seems that it’s only the fat cats at the top of the banking world that cream it all off — the small people at the bottom doing all the work get very little reward.

  2. August 3, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Do we simply have to accept that a basic unfairness is written into the very laws of the universe?

    My answer to that, Eddie, is an emphatic no! I’ve been reading an amazing book recently, Midnight Tides, fantasy, part of The Malazan Book of the Fallen series — amazing social commentary incorporated into the fabric of the novel about a society founded upon indebtedness and the way that society ultimately tears itself apart with its pursuit of so-called progress, trampling all others underfoot in their scramble to be top dog.

    Unfairness and the injustice are part of the reality of life in our twisted society — but between us we have the means to address it. We don’t have to accept it. But all it takes for injustice to succeed and take root is for those who know better to stay silent.

    People can call me a vociferous blogger and accuse me of stirring dissent within the trade if they wish, but where I see unjust or unethical business practices I will speak out. My sorrow is that so many choose to sit on the sidelines and watch instead of protesting. Within this trade of ours there seems to be a fear of upsetting the bandwagon, of rocking the boat — but sometimes the boat needs to be rocked!

    Sorry – seem to have gone off-topic a touch. Back to banking: let’s rock the banks!!

  1. September 9, 2010 at 9:14 pm

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