February 16, 2009

It isn't fair when professionals who have worked hard and met their performance goals don't get recognition and remuneration. It isn't fair when employees who play by the rules lose their jobs because some coworkers have done something wrong. And it isn't fair when an entire industry is slammed because of the poor performance of a few companies.

It isn't fair when sound businesses cannot obtain financing because of the credit crisis and banks' reluctance to lend. It isn't fair when consumers are duped by shady mortgage brokers or simply don't understand the fine print of their loan arrangements.

It isn't fair when one's lifestyle is under siege because of the loss of a job — one's own or that of a significant other. It isn't fair when workers in the restaurant, hotel and retail industries are let go because of cuts in corporate travel and meeting budgets and consumers' fears about their own incomes.

It isn't fair when worthy charity and community investment programs lose critical funding because their corporate benefactors have gone out of business. It isn't fair when grandstanding politicians, media pundits and other talking heads who really don't know much about finance (or even business in general) portray the banking industry and its management as the ultimate in evil.

And it isn't fair when the people who make it possible for the "big guns" to do what they do by building and maintaining the enabling systems (e.g., trading, risk management, etc.) are downsized after misuse of those systems causes institutions to post huge losses or fail altogether.

Yes, life truly is unfair these days — not just for the people who work in the banking industry, but for everyone who in some way is affected by the fallout from the financial crisis. But that's reality, and there's little to be gained by playing the victim.

Wells Fargo's president and CEO, John Stumpf, wrote in an open letter that appeared in major newspapers in early February, "We hope the hardworking people of America understand, appreciate and support employers who try to do the right thing for their team members, customers, communities and shareholders." Nope, sorry, not this year. Crying "foul" may be justified, but it's only a distraction that will accomplish nothing other than making it that much harder for the banking industry to regain the trust and confidence it so desperately needs.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & ...