Outgoing Governor of the Bank of England: it’s healthy that students don’t want a City career at a high cost to society
He steered the Bank of England through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, but Sir Mervyn King insists that a nine-month stint as a supply teacher in Wolverhampton in 1966 was still “the most exhausting job” he has ever done. The outgoing governor told Desert Island Discs host Kirsty Young that the financial crisis has put off a generation of students from working in banking because they now believe it causes “enormous damage to the rest of society”. King, who hands over to Mark Carney later this year, said it was “no wonder” that people had lost faith in the financial sector. He said: “In many ways, when the crisis hit in 2007-08 I was surprised people weren’t angry sooner and I think you can see it coming through now as the impact on standards of living becomes more obvious. They have every right to be angry.”
He told Young: “I go to schools and speak to sixth-formers and others and I found before the crisis that a disturbingly high proportion of them, instead of wanting to become engineers or scientists or musicians, wanted to go and work in the City.
“Why? Because they wanted to make a lot of money. Now I think they don’t really want to go and earn money if it’s being earned in a way that creates enormous damage to the rest of society and I think that’s a very healthy thing.”
King said he would not write his memoirs after leaving the bank, saying he did not want to join “the chorus of people who write books with the subtitle ‘Why I was right and everyone else was wrong'”.
Discussing his time in the classroom, he said: “I would come back at five o’clock in the afternoon and I’d have to lie down even at the age of 18 and sleep for an hour to recover from the exertions of teaching because the children were so lively and enthusiastic. I started a cricket team there, but the sheer energy you had to put in managing the classroom, helping the children in playground or at lunchtime, it was emotionally and physically draining.”
A lifelong Aston Villa fan, King chose a song about the club’s European Cup final victory in Rotterdam in 1982 as one of his eight discs as well as the theme to Channel 4’s cricket coverage, Mambo No 5 by Lou Bega.
He also chose a track that was played at his wedding to his wife, Barbara, whom he first met when they were students in 1970 but then did not see until she called him out of the blue about 30 years later.
He joked: “The moral of this story is: never change your telephone number.”