The financial services sector is an industry suffering from a lack of
ethics, with employees who ‘hang up their personal values next to their coats’,
according to a new study.
Integrity in Practise, commissioned by the Financial Services Authority
(FSA), claims that over-regulation and pressure to achieve results have created
a ‘tick-box’ approach to ethics in financial services.
David Jackman, chief executive for the Skills Council for Financial Services
– the employer-led organisation set up to meet the sector’s skills needs – said
tick-box ethics is a widespread problem that damages the confidence of
consumers and the industry’s workforce.
"This approach to ethics is essentially conscience laundering," he
said. "Companies have to support and encourage people to think for
themselves and not make black and white decisions."
John Wrighthouse, HR director at Nationwide, said that everyone in the
industry claimed to have an ethics policy, but few would "put their money
where their mouth was".
"Some of the older, larger banks have been slower to react," he
said. "What companies need is to have a proactive approach, not just pay
lip service to ethical issues."
The study recommends that firms use workshops, mentoring and coaching to
embed ethical behaviour in organisational culture.
Chris Brown, strategy consultant for group HR at Abbey, said that a strong
ethics policy could help motivate staff and make them go the extra mile, but
believes ethical behaviour is driven from the top.
"Sometimes it can be difficult for an employee to express a doubt even
in the comfort of a small group," he said. "You have to train
managers to understand and empathise with staff."
By Michael Millar