The Banker-Turned-Seminarian Trying to Save Citigroup’s Soul

Bank takes new approach to cultural issues: hires David Miller as on-call ethicist

David Miller is a Princeton University professor by day and works with Citigroup intermittently to tackle abstract issues about banking and morality.PHOTO: MICHAEL BUCHER/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

By Christina Rexrode
March 17, 2017

Can a big bank have a conscience? Citigroup hired one.

David Miller is an on-call ethicist the bank consults on weighty questions of right and wrong, supplementing its armies of lawyers and compliance officers. A Princeton University professor by day, Dr. Miller has worked with Citigroup intermittently for the last three years to tackle abstract issues about banking and morality.

Those are squishy topics for Wall Street, where aggression is a virtue and making money a necessity. Dr. Miller, who spent years in banking before going to seminary, acknowledges the dichotomy—and the ribbing from friends and colleagues who thought he had sold his soul when he agreed to work with Citigroup.

“You need banking, just like you need pharmaceuticals,” says the 60-year-old New Jersey native. “And pharma can save lives, or it can kill and cause addictions.”

If the topic is philosophical, the stakes aren’t. As Citigroup’s president James Forese pointed out in a 2015 industry conference, the bank made $1 million in revenue from dubious foreign-exchange trading—and paid roughly $2.5 billion in penalties.

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