By Simon Clark and Caroline Binham
Barclays Bank Chief Executive Officer John Varley stood at the wooden lectern in St. Martin-in-the-Fields on London’s Trafalgar Square on Nov 3 and told the packed pews of the church that “profit is not satanic.” The 53-year-old head of Britain’s second-biggest bank said banks are the “backbone” of the economy.
Rewarding high- performing bankers with more pay doesn’t conflict with Christian values, he said. Varley was paid 1.08 million pounds ($1.77 million) and no bonus in 2008.
“Talent is highly mobile,” Varley, a Catholic, said. “If we fail to pay or are constrained from paying competitive rates then that talent will move to another employer.” “Is Christianity and banking compatible? Yes,” he said in an interview after the speech in the 283-year-old church. “And is Christianity and fair reward compatible? Yes.”
Varley joins Goldman Sachs International adviser Brian Griffiths and Lazard International Chairman Ken Costa as London bankers who’ve gone into London churches in recent weeks and invoked Christianity to defend a banking system that critics say has created wealth and inequality in the U.K.
“The injunction of Jesus to love others as ourselves is an endorsement of self-interest,” Goldman’s Griffiths said Oct. 20, his voice echoing around the gold-mosaic walls of St. Paul’s Cathedral, whose 365-feet-high dome towers over the City, London’s financial district. “We have to tolerate the inequality as a way to achieving greater prosperity and opportunity for all.”
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