Globally renowned expert advisor and broadcaster on culture, accounting, finance, business ethics, holistic education and leadership

“Finance. The very word strikes fear into the hearts and minds of millions. Money was supposed to serve society – instead, today, it has become our master.”

It was with these powerful words that Professor Atul Shah began his 15-minute speech on BBC Radio 4’s Four Thought on 11th August 2021.

The speech – titled ‘Fear of Finance’ – gave Professor Shah an opportunity to share the benefits of his expertise as a thought leader, writer, academic and broadcaster specialising in ethical finance, accounting, corporate governance and regulation.

Four Thought offers selected experts a TED Talk-style platform to reach a large audience and share the benefits of their experience and knowledge.

It was a welcome opportunity for Professor Shah, who aims through his teaching to show how trust and relationships – as well as a greater appreciation of saving and thrift – are crucial to gaining practical financial literacy, rather than seeing finance as a complex and unwieldy domain reserved exclusively for specialists.

Listen to Professor Shah’s ‘Fear of Finance’ speech
on BBC Radio 4’s Four Thought.

Professor Shah, a Visiting Professor in City, University of London’s Department of International Politics, discussed how over one million people in Britain today don’t have a bank account; instead, they are often laden with debt.

Illiteracy in finance often breaks down marriages, affects mental health, and contributes to a society effectively enslaved by finance.

Homes are vehicles for investment and speculation. Banks, and even academics are, as Professor Shah says in his speech, “all too often complicit in a system that promotes confusion”.

As a society, we ignore the important role of faith, trust and relationships in finance – an area of specialism for Professor Shah, who was born into the Jain community, one of the oldest living religions on the planet.

He believes that we should “nurture good habits and be an example of thrift to our children” – we all need ‘finance IQ’ if we are to have a peaceful and healthy future. And not only through parents teaching these habits to their offspring, but also building them into the school curriculum.

Speaking after the broadcast, Professor Shah said:

Finance education and training today removes culture, faith, wisdom, trust and community and instead superimposes a sophisticated technical science whose unethical assumptions are buried deeply.

This has caused very real devastation to ordinary people’s lives all over the planet and is completely unsustainable.

Education needs to be much more holistic and respectful of cultural diversity and encourage trust and relationships as central to finance.

Professor Shah’s books on these themes show a way forward, but he stresses that reform is most urgently needed and cannot be delayed any longer.

“We’ve had a financial crash in every decade since the 1970s. These crashes have resulted in job losses and plundering of pensions,” he said.

“We urgently need to change our attitude to finance.”

Renowned accountant and academic Lord Prem Sikka, Professor of Accounting at the University of Sheffield, commented on the broadcast:

“This is a very timely and pertinent message for reform of the modern recklessness of both the science and teaching methods in finance, and also incorporates reform of financial structures and institutions,” he said.

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