The Dutch bankers must do it. Doctors don’t do it as much as you might think. Even business brains with MBAs can do their own. Now there’s a chance for those in banking and finance.
It, of course, is to make an oath that interesting word which can mean both a solemn undertaking or a profane expression. Fortunately the Banking and Finance Oath is arguably neither.
It’s a series of nine commitments (see below) , which in the words of the organisers, allow signatories to affirm they respect the position of trust ‘society affords them’.
Unlike the oath 90,000 Dutch bankers must take this year it’s entirely voluntary, without disciplinary sanctions and there’s no mention of God.
Perhaps like the Hippocratic Oath, which surprisingly few medics actually take, it’s a purely personal commitment made by the individual and isn’t binding to those who might employ them.
And like the MBA oath, which aims to help professionalise management in ways akin to the law and medicine, the BFO is about developing a strong ethical framework in financial services.
It’s especially relevant given the Zurich Risk Adviser Sentiment index last week found confidence in the profession had taken a severe beating and perception in the community was negative.
An oath isn’t going to change everything but it’s a credible start in the right direction and gives both planners and consumers a signpost as to where individuals seek to stand.
The St James Ethics Centre in Sydney is behind the move which is attracting increased attention from those in financial planning. Check out the website (www.thebfo.org) to see who is involved.
A panel started administering the oath in 2010. They select the board which includes the AMP’s Steven Dunne, Steve Tucker who used to head MLC and Pauline Vamos of the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA). Those behind the oath say it complements regulation, compliance and education but they also want to stress the need for personal responsibility and individual ethical decision making.
The centre’s head Simon Longstaff has argued that ethics have been set aside for mere compliance. “If you have created compliance rules which mean no one has done anything wrong then people don’t learn how to do something the right way,” he said.
Those who’ve signed up, including this writer, are on the website which is described as an initiative which supports ethical behaviour and not a name-and-shame tool. It takes a few minutes of your time and costs $20 a year to cover costs such as hosting forums and developing initiatives.
My bloody oath is an much-loved Australian colloquialism for that’s certainly true. The BFO is a still little-known but growing Australian initiative which is certainly worthwhile. Please consider signing up.
The Banking and Finance Oath
1. Trust is the foundation of my profession
2. I will serve all interests in good faith
3. I will compete with honour
4. I will pursue my ends with ethical restraint
5. I will create a sustainable future
6. I will help create a more just society
7. I will speak out against wrongdoing and support others who do the same
8. I will accept responsibility for my actions
9. My word is my bond