Banking on goodwill

One of the biggest challenges for business leaders these days is to stay engaged and closely attuned to what’s going on outside their immediate circle. It’s human instinct, after all, to turn inward during times of trouble and to focus on the urgent matters at hand.

The perils of succumbing to that, however, are splashed all over the front page: chartered banks, which have no shortage of their own concerns, are coming under fire for being self-absorbed. Given the potentially steep cost of grassroots backlash against them, it might be a good idea for the bank chairs to listen up.

First, no one less than the Governor of the Bank of Canada, Mark Carney, is exhorting the chartered banks to help re-float the faltering domestic economy by lending to credit-worthy businesses and individuals at the new, lower rates – instead of hoarding capital as a cushion against bad loans.

The Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, is also scolding the Big Banks for their call for a provincial corporate tax cut from 14 per cent to 10 per cent. He wasn’t too impressed with their suggestion that if a cut isn’t forthcoming in 2009, there will be job cuts in the Ontario-centric financial services sector.

Taking a careful reading of the general mood – particularly on the political front – it might be a good time to cultivate an image as part of the solution. Not a new source of trouble.

Gordon Buckland