Banking and the Limits of Professionalism
UNSW Law Journal, Vol. 40(1), 2017
45 Pages Posted: 19 Jun 2017
Date Written: April 12, 2017
Few other occupations that aspire to professional status have the influence, both beneficial and destructive, or the raw power to resist regulation and political constraint, that banking has.
Our primary question is whether banking could become a profession. We start from the position that whether banking is, or might become, a profession is not obvious, for a number of reasons.
We outline two of the leading difficulties of regulating banking, namely the focus on controlling entities in the sector and their scale and complexity, and the ubiquitous presence of high remuneration for individuals (or at least an expectation of it).
We examine in detail the fit between banking and the professional duty to the public, duty to the client and duty to peers and to the profession respectively. We analyse another element of traditional professions: the role of professional associations. Associations are both representatives and regulators, and we consider particularly the challenges they face in the enforcement of professional duties in the banking sector.
After reviewing the three central professional duties and associations, we conclude that banking faces challenges in trying to professionalise as an entire occupational group. This, in turn, raises the question about what professionalism and professions might still have to offer, even if it seems impossible to fully professionalise such a vast industry, at least as a whole.
Finally, by examining the limits of professionalism in the banking sector, by inference, our argument also considers whether in other occupations, demands for professionalising can be realised and, if they cannot, what professional logic may still have to offer.
Keywords: banking, finance, ethics, professionalism, regulation
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