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The Citizen Bank

LONDON – Soon after the financial crisis began in 2008, I was at a meeting in the United States where a senior White House economic adviser put a question to me: “Do you think banks can be good citizens?”

As I started to answer “Yes,” he interjected: “If your answer is ‘yes,’ think about the fact that no one will believe you.”

His follow-up gave me pause. I’ve thought a lot about it over the past three years, which have been so difficult for the world economy.

The economic environment in which we are all living and working nowadays is particularly challenging. In Europe, the United Kingdom, and the US, we are feeling the effects of the unsustainable levels of public and private debt accrued in the years before 2008. Spending cuts are being put in place by governments and households alike, with varying degrees of public acceptance and social unrest.