Carney Looks to Millennials to Help End ‘Dreaded Experts’ Tag

Updated on
  • Governor says bank should adopt ‘spirit of the millennial’
  • BOE plans to push inclusive communication strategies

Embattled Mark Carney is pushing diversity and inclusion as he seeks to boost the Bank of England’s image after months of criticism.

Lauded as the “rock-star central banker” set to shake up the three-century-old BOE when he became governor in 2013, Carney has since drawn the ire of politicians and popular press centered over accusations of meddling in the Brexit vote. Now he’s looking to staff and their communication strategy to help overcome mistrust that’s grown since the financial crisis.

“Frequent charges leveled at this central bank -- like many of our peers -- include being mono-culture, secretive and ridden with groupthink,” Carney said in a speech in London Thursday. “The decisions we take impact every U.K. citizen. How can they rely on us -- the dreaded experts?”

He also said the BOE should look to the “spirit of the millennial,” saying this generation is interested in “connecting with each other, collaborating across teams and exploring a variety of ideas.”

Carney’s comments come after the BOE’s governing body warned of reputational damage from the “volume of unfavorable media coverage” since the June 23 vote to leave the European Union. Some lawmakers claimed it presented a negatively biased view and even called for Carney’s resignation, while policy makers were also accused of measures that heighten economic inequality.

“Diverse decision-making bodies typically have greater political support and enjoy greater public trust,” Carney said. “They also tend to achieve better policy outcomes through better understanding of community needs and more effective dialogue with the wider population.”

Staff Changes

The governor has placed issues of inclusion at the fore since his arrival at the BOE, when he bemoaned the lack of female policy makers. He noted in his speech on Thursday that he’s the 120th in a “very long line of male governors,” he said.

While the Treasury announced Thursday that departing deputy governor Minouche Shafik will be replaced by Charlotte Hogg, the only other female Monetary Policy Committee member, Kristin Forbes, is set to leave at the end of June.

The governor’s comments echo those of the central bank’s chief economist, Andy Haldane, who said in November that greater diversity could help prevent the type of “groupthink” that can allow events such as the financial crisis to take place.

Carney -- who has overseen efforts to rebuild trust through public meetings and conferences -- also said the BOE needs to focus on making communications “more inclusive” in an attempt to make it more accessible.

Research published on the BOE’s staff blog in October said many speeches and reports are too complicated to be understood by a broad audience, according to a study of their reading-grade level. Working on the assumption that a grade 8 or 9 level based on Flesch-Kincaid tests represents that of a wide audience, the report concluded that BOE communications are far higher at grade 14.

As part of efforts to reach as broad an audience as possible, Carney hosted a seminar with English National Ballet lead principal dancer Tamara Rojo on Friday at which the governor highlighted the importance of inclusion in the central bank’s communications.

Citing the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche that “We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once,” he said he would save his daily dance until later. However, Haldane, “our very own prima donna, will take his opportunity after this,” Carney jokingly said of the BOE chief economist, who was also present.

— With assistance by Scott Hamilton

(Updates with further comments from Mark Carney in last two paragraphs.)
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