Jo Geraghty


Embedding high standards of behaviour

Date added: 08th May 2017
Category: Culture of conduct/ethics

So you are slapdash in your approach to work, you play fast and loose with the truth, and all of your actions are geared either towards personal promotion or profit.

There’s not many who would admit to even one of those work philosophies; and yet there are some industries whose reputation is so tarnished that customers and investors alike would be unsurprised to find that the truth matched the perception. Over the years successive scandals have hit many professions including journalism, estate agency, the motor industry and politics. Some are fleeting whilst others such as banking and the provision of financial services continue to attract headlines as they attempt to extricate themselves from opprobrium.

Perhaps it’s unfair on the financial services industry; with a survey towards the end of 2016 setting journalists and politicians on the bottom two rungs of least trusted professions. Be that as it may, the continuing visibility of scandals such as PPI hasn’t helped the banking profession to rebuild the trust which was lost as a result of the financial crash.

With that in mind the launch of a new UK Money Markets code may be somewhat of a double-edged sword. Applying to participants in the deposit, repo and securities lending markets the code sets out standards and best practice expected in order to promote the integrity and effective functioning of the markets. Conduct expectations fall within “six high-level principles encompassing ethics, governance, risk management, confidentiality, execution and settlement.”

Launching the code, which is expected to take effect from January 2018, the chair of the money markets committee, Cris Salmon, called on participants to “embrace the new code and embed the high standards of behaviour it sets out.” Dispassionate observers may question why so many years after the financial scandals came to light, it is still considered necessary to launch new behavioural expectations. Surely ethics and integrity are two of the prerequisites for participants in any industry, let alone one which involves the financial security of individuals and the nation.

Read down the press release and in fact it appears that this new code is in fact a revision of existing guidance. As such it is an acknowledgement that markets move on and that guidance which may have been appropriate at one time requires revision if it is to continue to deliver high standards. In itself that is an important lesson for all business. Unless culture and behavioural expectations are kept under constant review they may not continue to deliver the strategy and values as set out by the board.

But it is also an important lesson in communication, in delivering the message in a way in which it is best received by stakeholders. Launching a new code delivers a very different message from revising and strengthening existing key principles of behaviour. One implies an ongoing lack of basic expectation; the other promotes continuity of care. Either way, the key message from this ‘new’ code is that high standards of behaviour are not only recommended but expected to be embedded in approach, action and decision making. At the end of the day that can only be good for the eventual rehabilitation of the financial services sector.

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