The chief executive of Goldman Sachs, which has attracted widespread media attention over the size of its staff bonuses, believes banks serve a social purpose and are doing God's work.

In an interview with London's Sunday Times newspaper, Lloyd Blankfein also said he believed big profits and bonuses at banks were a sign that the world economy was recovering.

We help companies to grow by helping them to raise capital. Companies that grow create wealth. This, in turn, allows people to have jobs that create more growth and more wealth. We have a social purpose, he told the paper.

The dominant Wall Street bank posted third-quarter earnings of $3 billion and plans to hand out more than $20 billion in year-end bonuses.

Blankfein told the Sunday Times that the bank's compensation practices correlated with long-term performance.

Others made no money and still paid large bonuses. Some are not around anymore. I wonder why?

He added that he understood, however, that people were angry with bankers' actions: I know I could slit my wrists and people would cheer.

(Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by Greg Mahlich)