Values and Trust
Mr President, Mr Sheriff, Club Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my pleasure and privilege to act as your host today in my capacity as Chairman. I attended Coleman Street Ward Civic Lunch last week and listened intently as President Peter Estlin said that he’d been talking recently to Sir Robert Worcester of MORI and had been inspired to conduct a poll of 100 people going in to the lunch – the question ‘Which is the best ward club in the city?‘ and the result – he declared proudly - was Coleman Street. Well I have to say that I have repeated a similar poll of 100 people here today - (it could have been 200 as our lunch is somewhat larger!)- and the answer - is Broad St – so welcome today to the best ward club in the City!
We are honoured to have as our principle guest, the Aldermanic Sheriff of the City of London, Andrew Parmley - together with his wife Wendy. I’m also delighted that the Rembrancer of the City of London, Mr Paul Double, is also with us today.
Naturally we are disappointed that the Lord Mayor could not join us but we send him our loyal greetings and wish him a most successful and happy year in office and thank you, Sheriff - most warmly - for joining us.
The Chief Commoner John Bennett and his wife Jane are unwell so have not been able to join us – we hope that they feel much better very soon. In his special year I do want to add some important words about John. John is a much loved and respected long standing member of the Club, as well as a former Chairman. He is the first Common Councillor from Broad Street Ward to serve as Chief Commoner for over 80 years. This is a tremendous honour for John - and for our Ward - and we are hugely proud and delighted to see what a wonderful year John and Jane are enjoying.
I welcome also the Masters of the four Livery Companies within our Ward - the Carpenters, Drapers, Furniture Makers and International Bankers - whose warm support for us we greatly appreciate. The Master Pattenmaker, Immediate Past Chairman Chris Hayward is most welcome - who along with our Deputy, John Bennett, and John Scott are Common Councillors for the Ward. And also the President of the Bishopsgate Ward Club Sue Douthwaite - and indeed the warmest of welcomes to all our guests here today.
‘My word is my bond’ – a familiar phrase to all of us I’m sure. Its origin can be traced back centuries. Its essence of course is in doing what you say you will, it embodies trust, ethics, standards and reliability.
Losing sight of these values caused the global financial earthquake of 2008. Not since 1929 had 12 months like it been witnessed.
At RBS I experienced it first-hand. I think we are all agreed that we have no wish to see anything like that repeated in the future. The bedrock of all economies is Trust – and that is in no way a new theme.
So why do we have a history of recurring crisis – a cycle of building trust and breaking trust? Perhaps it is that we start to think that we are cleverer and brighter than past generations. It’s incredible to see the extent to which trust and confidence was so seriously eroded in the most recent financial crisis.
‘My Word is my Bond’ features prominently in ‘The City Obligation’ - which might not be so familiar. It is a statement to express what the City of London, and the individuals and organisations that work within it, stand for. Treating others as you would wish to be treated - with honesty and integrity.
It owes its definition to ‘The City Values Forum’ which works to embed the principles of trust and integrity in financial and business services and to improve business cultures and behaviours. The forum was formed in 2011 when Sir Michael Bear was Lord Mayor to deliver recommendations to his initiative ‘Restoring Trust in the City’ and has since reported to successive Lord Mayors in their year of office.
What strikes me is the contrast between the timeless nature of these values on the one hand and the need to establish a forum as recently as three years ago to remind us of them.
So we have a role to play in fostering trust and value in the communities in which we live and work – we also have a role to play in fostering participation in our electoral system. If anyone doubted that politics does not matter to people the recent Scottish referendum tells a different story. Politics does matter – where it is seen to be relevant and important to the everyday lives of the electorate. People feel much more connected with relevant issues, local to them. The Ward Clubs are a great example of ‘localism’ in action within in the City.
We play an important role in City life. We bring together people with an interest in the Ward. I was delighted very early on in my year of office to have the Club work with our President Alderman Michael Mainelli and the Civic Team to organise an event inspired by Michael. It connected Electors with the Civic Team, the Livery Companies in our Ward and the Ward Club. This serves an important purpose in engaging people with the electoral process, but also many other beneficial outcomes. It was an excellent event and we are looking forward very much to being involved in future such events.
The more the Club grows the more we can bring benefit to the Ward and the City - and we are growing. More people are joining and more people are participating in the Club’s activities. We are delighted by the increase in our membership during the past few years and at now having the Club on a sustainable financial footing.
But we are not complacent. We ourselves need to stay relevant and so we were the first Ward Club on Twitter - and recently Facebook and LinkedIn. We will be launching a new website shortly to provide a better service to our members and a more professional and engaging face to the world
At the AGM in February I will be recommending that the club formally recognises and embraces within its governance the ethics and standards enshrined in the 'City Obligation' that I referred to earlier – and that we continue to emphasise and live these values in all that we do.
Thankfully we continue to make great advances in the world. The pace of evolution and progress is ever more rapid. But we are not always as smart as we think and our moral compass relies on trust and ethics to keep it on track – we must continue to remember this - as The Russian physician and author Anton Chekhov said - ‘You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible.’
Mr Sheriff I am particularly grateful to you for taking time out from your busy civic diary to join us today. We have a proud tradition of supporting the City and in concluding I would like to present you with two cheques on behalf of the Broad Street Ward Club, one for the Lord Mayor’s Appeal and one for your Sheriff and Recorders fund.
The toast is The Lord Mayor, The City of London Corporation and The Sheriffs.