Owen Kelly (MA (Hons), Chinese (University of Edinburgh); Diploma in Chinese Language, Shandong University; PG Diploma, Social and Public Policy (University of Edinburgh); Honorary Fellow, Chartered Institute of Bankers)

PhD Philosophy

  • Philosophy
  • School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences
  • Edinburgh Futures Institute

Contact details



Dugald Stewart Building

3 Charles Street, Edinburgh
Post code


Dr Owen Kelly, OBE, is a part-time Doctoral Researcher in the Department of Philosophy at Edinburgh University, examining how ancient ethical ideas can be applied to modern business practice.He also works at the University of Edinburgh Business School as Director of Engagement, and at the Edinburgh Futures Institute, where he is the Deputy Director.

From 2008 to 2016 he was Chief Executive of Scottish Financial Enterprise, the representative body for Scotland's financial services industry. During his term of office, he dealt with the financial crisis and the referendum on Scottish independence, both of which raised large and important questions for the industry. He continues to contributed regularly to public debate on aspects of economics and politics.

Before working for the financial services industry, he worked for 20 years as a civil servant in the UK and Scottish Governments. When he left in 2008, he was Director of Communications and International at the Scottish Government. He served as Principal Private Secretary to the First Minister of Scotland and as Private Secretary to a UK government Minister. His policy specialisms were EU and international affairs and communications.

He holds an honours degree in Chinese (1986) and a Diploma in Social and Public Policy (1998), both from the University of Edinburgh. He also holds a diploma in Chinese language from the University of Shandong.

He is Chair of the Trustees of the Historic Scotland Foundation, and he is a Trustee of the McConnell International Foundation.

He is an Honorary Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers.



MA (Hons), Chinese, University of Edinburgh

Diploma in Chinese Language, Shandong University

PG DIp. Social and Public Policy, University of Edinburgh

Honorary Fellow, Chartered Institute of Bankers

Responsibilities & affiliations


Trustee, McConnell International Foundation

Chair of Trustees, Historic Scotland Foundation

Director of Engagment, University of Edinburgh Business School

Deputy Director, Edinburgh Futures Institute

Undergraduate teaching

Contributes to Social and Political Science course "Rethinking the Financial Crisis". Lectures at Edinburgh Napier University on financial services and intercultural communication.

Postgraduate teaching

Supervises MBA student dissertations at Edinburgh Napier University.

Research summary

Morality in business, especially financial services; morality in economics; Plato, Aristole, Rawls, Nozick and MacIntyre.

Current research interests

Ancient virtue ethics and their applicability to modern commerce, particularly financial services. Aristotle, Plato and their philosophies of acquisition and disposal of wealth and other goods.

Knowledge exchange

Spoke at seminar on ethics organised by the Chartered Institute of Bankers, the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries, the Law Society of Scotland and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland, 2 March  2017

Blog post on the 'Moral Markets' website, part of the 'Good Markets' research programme, run by a consortium of Dutch universities:



Research activities

View all 2 activities on Research Explorer

View all 12 publications on Research Explorer

Conference details

Annual Dublin Graduate Philosophy Conference, 2017

Ethical Finance and Governance in Emerging Markets Conference (ft. Belt and Road Initiative) 2-3 May 2018, Edinburgh Napier University - keynote speaker at opening session

Invited speaker


Honour in Classical Greece: Hybris Ancient and Modern: Ancient Greek Lessons in Life and Leadership


Ethical Finance and Governance in Emerging Markets


Papers delivered

"Just giving and just taking: an Aristotelian approach to modern problems of inequality, insatiety and consumerism. "

"Aristotelian virtue ethics as a way of spanning cultures along the Belt and the Road"

In the press

“The UK-EU ‘in-out’ referendum: Lessons from the Scottish vote on independence and a guide for what CEOs need to know about navigating political referendums” - working paper, co-authored with Professor Brad Mackay, University of Edinburgh Business School






'BREXIT and the Scottish Financial Services Sector' - policy brief, co-authored with Professor Jeremy Peat, University of Strathclyde; published by University of Strathclyde International Public Policy Insititute.





Letter in Financial Times, 23 March "Reclaim humanity that the workplace has lost"

http://edition.pagesuite.com/html5/reader/production/default.aspx?pubname=&pubid=4f81a735-141e-411e-8b4c-bb60ca70de42&pnum=22 - 'A philosophical approach to Boardroom morality'