With the Banking Royal Commission bringing out fresh revelations of misdoings by the day, and with the laying of criminal charges yesterday against several senior banking executives in ANZ, Citigroup, and Deutsche Bank, the standing of our financial institutions has never been lower.
There's been evidence of woeful conduct, including allegations of bribery, selling insurance to those who can't afford it, charging fees to clients who are actually dead, and outright lying to regulators.
And this not was from no-name smaller banks operating out of a car boot.
This was the biggest and most trusted names in the pantheon of Australian banking: AMP, and the Commonwealth.
That's what we know so far.
In an era when our big corporations are more and more anxiously branding themselves as supporters of socially progressive causes, the reality is that they are hollow inside.
So you'd be shocked to discover that Australia's great financial institutions were founded by Christians who had a vision of their work as serving the greater good.
In 1877, when the AMP building's foundation stone was laid, the chairman John Smith spoke directly about the religious purpose of the AMP. He said to the assembled throng:
"… our institution is pre-eminently religious and benevolent. Are we not told on the best authority that a necessary characteristic of true religion is to visit the fatherless and the widow in the affliction? And does not this society signally fulfil that indication?"
Smith was quoting directly from the New Testament. He went on
"This society then enables a man to perform essential religious duties, and if not religious itself, it is the medium or instrument of religion in its members."
The AMP wasn't just supporting a popular cause. It was an instrument of social good. It could help you do your duty to look after those who need it most. You might go to church to hear the message of kindness and generosity to those in need, but you could find in the AMP the means to practice that faith.
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