Dating back to the 12th century, western medical professionals have signed the Hippocratic Oath. Most US medical schools require their students to sign some form of this oath, swearing to practice medicine ethically and honestly, and never to do harm to anyone. While the Oath has been modernized and is not a requirement to be board certified, it remains a common practice.
Doctors and healthcare professionals are imbued with a real responsibility over our lives. But what about those people who are imbued with a responsibility over our livelihoods? Can livelihood not meaningfully effect the quality of our life? Why is there no equivalent Hippocratic Oath for business school students, or more specifically for bankers?
With the massive move to bank consolidation and the emergence of secondary markets, banks relied more on automation. The banker of yore, who knew your mom and your kids, barely exists today, not even in small community banks. That banker of yore was not only able to underwrite you without the presence of a FICO score, but assumed some sense of responsibility for his/her clients. Perhaps this is a romanticized picture of yore; I wasn’t around back then. I’m from the generation of automation and no Golden Rule.
Given that all we have to show for the global financial crisis here in the US is Dodd-Frank, CFPB, Volcker Rule and other miscellany – much with real unintended consequences yet to bear out on the most vulnerable – we are certainly due for another, much worse economic crisis, for business is mostly same as usual. I’m not sure that we have learned what the Greeks did 1000 years before their recent troubles: that a Hippocratic Oath for banking is not just good for you and me, but for our global economy. I found a funky, but interesting website – www.financialhippocraticoath.org – that promotes the same idea. Glad I’m not alone.