In a newspaper editorial Sunday, Mervyn King wrote that the London Olympic showed it was wrong to argue that massive bonuses were needed to motivate people to do well.
King said the success of Olympians and the pride of the 10,000 volunteers at the games showed that "motivation does not come from financial incentives alone."
"The financial sector has done us all a disservice in promoting the belief that massive financial compensation is necessary to motivate individuals," he wrote in the Mail on Sunday. "Look at the success of the volunteers whose presence at the Olympic Park and around London did so much to create the atmosphere of happiness that pervaded the games."
The recent scandals that have rocked Britain's financial world showed that "banks could learn a thing or two about fair play from the Olympic movement," he said.
King's comments come as the reputation of Britain's banking industry — which took a body blow during the global financial crisis — has hit new a low. British banks have long been in the dock over mis-selling of insurance and interest rate products to consumers and small businesses. But more recent scandals have provided new shocks.
Last month Barclays was forced to pay a $453 million fine for manipulating a key market interest rate. HSBC, another big London-based bank, faces fines of up to $1 billion after the U.S. Senate issued a damming report alleging it had failed to stop the laundering of Mexican drug money. And, back in May, JPMorgan Chase & Co. disclosed a surprise $2 billion trading loss — later upgraded to nearly $6 billion — racked up by its London office.
Most recent were allegations, out of New York, that U.K. bank Standard Chartered had spent years laundering Iranian oil money.
King isn't the first to argue that British Olympians — who are basking the glow of a huge haul of gold medals — could set an example for other sections of society.
England manager Roy Hodgson said Saturday he wanted the country's soccer players to behave more like Olympians, underscoring fans' unhappiness with a "season of shame" marred by two high-profile racism cases.