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Why ethics and success go hand in hand

by Robin Christie | 19 Feb 2015

 

One of several senior finance executives to have taken the Banking and Finance Oath (BFO), ANZ Australia CEO, Phil Chronican, has explained why acting ethically is good for business in the long run.

They are sentiments that Finsia CEO Russell Thomas endorses.

One area that Chroncian thinks has given rise to some unethical behaviour is where systems have been developed that reward people for short-term gains, "and that's where I think this notion that ethics and profitability might somehow be in conflict is very much in the short run".

In the long-run, however, Chronican believes that no organisation can survive unless it looks after its customers' interests.

"Eventually customers see what's going on, eventually the issues come out. And as we've seen through all of the events of the last six years with those companies and individuals that engaged in aggressive behaviour, ultimately those things have come tumbling down,” he said. 

"I've been in this industry now for 32 years. And if you want to build a career in this industry that spans 25 to 30 years you can't do that by having two or three years where you rip people off and you think that's somehow not going to catch up with you."

Taking pride

Commenting on why he chose to take the oath, Chronican explained that the decision was influenced by his GFC experience.

"I've always taken a lot of pride in being a banker. I thought banking was an honourable profession, and we helped households and businesses grow and manage finances," he said. "And maybe I was a little naive. I didn't realise that some of my colleagues were doing other things at the time."

When he heard about the oath, he explained that the concept rang a bell for him, and represented something that he could stand up and put his name to as an industry leader.

"Those of us that have worked in the industry for a long time, and do have that sense of pride in the industry, it was time that we stood up and said this is meant to be a profession where people have high ethical standards," he said. 

He explained that having genuine leaders take a stand to protect the industry's reputation is an important step, but stressed that taking the oath should reflect an individual pledge rather than being an action that's driven by organisational accountability.

"This really cuts down to a much more personal level, where people should have to say at an individual level, 'I agree with that. That's what I stand for'," he said. 

"So through my membership of the BFO organisation I've encouraged people to think of it as something that we don't get a company to adopt, but we get the individuals who work within the company to adopt. It's that sense that a person should feel that their word is their bond."

Common language

That said he believes that there's no reason why the oath should conflict with an organisation's values.

"The oath speaks about things in a slightly different way, but I do think that most companies would find that the oath is wholly consistent with what they would expect of their people," he said. "The thing about the oath is that it gives us some common language to talk about it across the industry."

While he admitted that there will always be sceptics who doubt the effectiveness of the oath, he believes that the banking and finance industry deserves to portray itself better in the public eye.

"Where people have pushed the edge of the envelope and pursued things for their own interests and not those of their customers, I think we need to be very clear that, it doesn't matter who you work for, your fellow professionals within the industry don't think that meets the standards of behaviour that we're looking for," he said.

And these are standards of behaviour that Chronican thinks naturally apply to Finsia members.

"Obviously we're interested in reaching out to the Finsia audience, because if you're a member of Finsia you've chosen by definition to think of yourself as being a finance professional," he said.

He added that, to him, being a member of Finsia and thinking about the oath are wholly aligned. 

"Some people might not want to think about it as an oath, and I'm not pushing people on this," he said. "But I do think if you've taken enough care in your career and shown the interest to join Finsia then the oath is something that you would expect to be of interest to people, because it's what senior leaders in the finance industry are thinking and talking about."

#taketheoath

Like Chronican, Russell Thomas has also taken the oath, and encourages Finsia’s members to do the same.

“To me, the oath is a powerful statement about personal responsibility” said Thomas. “Because it isn’t tied to a professional designation it elevates the discussion in the industry about ethics and what it means to individual practitioners.”

 “I’d like all of our members to consider taking the oath as a demonstration of their commitment to serving the community through their profession.”

To take the Banking and Finance Oath, visit www.thebfo.org. If you have taken the oath and want to encourage your colleagues to do so, discuss on social media using #taketheoath and #thebfo.

 

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