Lloyd Blankfein may have been joking when he said he was doing God’s work, but most people in banking might say the same thing in all seriousness. Surprisingly, perhaps, a majority of bankers in the City of London say they follow a religion.
Of the 832 finance professionals who responded to the question about religious beliefs in our recent diversity survey, only 19% said they didn’t follow a religion and a further 13% said they were atheists, making the avowedly irreligious just 32% of the total (or, up to 42% when all those who refused to answer the question are added in). According to the Office of National Statistics, the comparable proportion of irreligious people in the UK population at large is 25%, meaning that bankers are more irreligious than most, but are still more religious than not.
Surprisingly perhaps, Catholicism was the most widespread religion in the City, followed by the Church of England and Hinduism. There aren’t many Sikhs or Buddhists in banking.
Notably, irreligious views are more widespread in the front office than the middle and back office. 34% of front office bankers said they were atheists or that they followed no religion, compared to 31% in the middle office and 28% in the back office.
The front office banker best known for his religious views is probably Ken Costa, the ex-Lazard and UBS dealmaker who is chairman of Alpha International and founder of God at Work, an organisation to promote religion in the workplace. Costa has said that he contemplated going into the church instead of going into banking, but that, “a strong conviction,” told him to go into banking first.