Bitcoin King Winklevoss Dines With Trust Expert Baroness O'NeillBy
Berggruen prize winner says trust is hard to find in finance
Trust is also theme of Met Museum of Art Acquisitions Dinner
It may not be every financier’s or techie’s dream, but some get a thrill from dining with philosophers and curators.
On Thursday night, these refined minds had two black-tie options. Howard Marks, Jim Tisch and Tom Hill (just back from the United Arab Emirates where he visited the Louvre Abu Dhabi) headed to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for an Acquisitions Dinner touting objects that entered the New York museum’s permanent collections this year.
About 40 blocks south on Fifth Avenue, the Berggruen Institute chose to present its $1 million prize for philosophy and culture at the New York Public Library, where Tyler Winklevoss, Evan Spiegel and Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic adviser at German insurance giant Allianz SE and a Bloomberg View columnist, dined on meticulously prepared root vegetables and chocolate cake.
At both affairs, the hot topic was trust, whether in politics and society or cryptocurrencies. At Berggruen, the prize winner was moral philosopher Onora O’Neill, who focuses on trust not just in the abstract sense but on how it applies to the banking industry. She serves on the U.K.’s Banking Standards Board and her son, Jacob Nell, is an economist at Morgan Stanley.
In a huddle after dessert, O’Neill was asked how to identify people who are trustworthy in financial services.
“It’s extremely difficult,” said the emeritus professor at the University of Cambridge and crossbench member of the U.K.’s House of Lords. “Increasing regulation won’t do the trick. It’s the culture of the institution that matters.”
Her view -- eloquently presented in a lecture at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York last year -- is that regulation doesn’t always secure trustworthy behavior. It can distract from primary tasks and create perverse incentives tempting people to game the system.
The Met Museum’s event took on trust in the context of securing gifts of art. With 85 percent of its collections coming from donations, the museum seems to have a lot of it, even in a year when its chief executive departed under some clouds, including a growing deficit.
Collector Charles Diker said it comes down to relationships, giving credit to Carrie Rebora Barratt, the Met’s deputy director for collections and administration.
“Carrie has a way of creating friendships, and she has a way of making the collector feel this is the most important thing for the Met,” said Diker, sitting next to Barratt on a banquet in the Great Hall.
How did Barratt persuade the Dikers to donate their collection of Native American art to the museum? By pointing out the Met’s holdings in that area were weak.
“It was a gaping hole in what we would consider to be an encyclopedic collection,” Barratt said. “And embarrassing in these times of diversity and inclusion.”
On the other side of the room, Luke Syson, head of European sculpture and decorative arts, described an object he acquired for the museum: a figurine of a British soldier in India, who has gone behind the bushes for a pee, with his head in a tiger’s mouth.
“This is the kind of thing the Met would never collect in the old days,” Syson said. “The Met has always been a little nose-in-the-air. This is England at its earthiest."
Apparently Syson has a high-low vision for the British galleries. The soldier figurine will be displayed next to a pair of candle sticks from the English country estate Goodwood.