In a city built on faith and finance, there’s an unaddressed tension between the two.
Charlotte, the country’s second-largest banking center, is also a city where top bank executives teach Sunday school, serve as deacons and mention church at employee rallies. It’s the kind of place where Hugh McColl Jr. says he got inspired to buy BankAmerica, a decision that created Bank of America Corp., while singing a hymn at the early service.
And yet there’s rarely a public conversation about what is ethically right and wrong in the banking industry, and how that contributed to the financial meltdown still roiling national economies. Although bankers acknowledge that “mistakes” were made or there were “cognitive failures,” they are often loath to dwell on their industry’s ethical breaches.
It’s an uncomfortable conversation but a necessary one, many believe. Without it, they say, we will only find ourselves in another financial crisis.
Richard Boyce, the mayor of Belmont, N.C., and a Presbyterian minister who teaches seminary students in Charlotte, said he’s concerned that the city’s bankers haven’t clearly addressed the issues of right and wrong in their industry.
“We’ve all benefited from the success of the banks in Charlotte,” he said. “It’s not like any of our hands are clean. … What frustrates me is here in this banking center, we don’t seem to be talking to one another much about how we decide what is proper and improper in terms of banking practices today.”