Banking and the Limits of Professionalism

UNSW Law School
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Journal Article
University of New Sourh Wales Law Journal, 2017, 40 (2)
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A primary question is whether banking could become a profession. The business terrain of finance is the most hazardous on which to establish the practices of profession. Likewise, evidence to the 2013 UK Parliamentary inquiry into banking conduct suggested that banking may once have been considered a profession, but that it is no longer considered one, and has certainly not been a profession since the 1980s. It also indicated that banking, if it ever were a profession, is not an occupation ready for re- professionalisation. We start from the position that whether banking is, or might become, a profession is not obvious, for a number of reasons. The first is the intense government regulation which is generally the primary mode of securing the benefits of banking and limiting its undesirable effects. External regulation tends be regarded as a definitional and practical threat to the self-regulation that marks out traditional professionalism. Second, traditional professional logic is said to promote as one of its distinguishing features a contrast with, and at least to some extent, a corrective to the world of business, a world ‘dominated by large bureaucratic organizations, competitive markets, managerial control, deskilling or dehumanizing tendencies and a markedly for-profit logic’. Meanwhile, some bankers perceive this aggressive for-profit orientation as essential and a justification against change. Evidence to the Inquiry included the view of a senior banker that: ‘Banking is a strictly profit-making business, and is not, and never has been, a profession in the sense that, say, medicine or law is’.
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