Banking ethics as crucial as profits, other KPIs – Fidelity Bank CEO

Fidelity Bank holds virtual networking event for young entrepreneurs
Photo: Julian Opuni, MD, Fidelity Bank Ghana

Without proper adherence to ethical guidelines such as the Ghana Banking Code of Ethics and Business Conduct, banks and businesses will be doing great a disservice to their businesses specifically and the economy in general, Julian Kingsley Opuni, Managing Director of Fidelity Bank, a leading indigenous lender, has said.

“Ethics should be given as much attention as the other talking points. Because at the end of the day, of what import is growth in revenue for instance, if said growth is not attained ethically? World-class institutions uphold proper business conduct and ethics, and the same must apply here in Ghana,” Mr. Opuni said.

Speaking to the B&FT in a wide-ranging interview on the Ghana Banking Code of Ethics and Business Conduct launched by the Chartered Institute of Bankers (CIB) Ghana, Mr. Opuni pointed out that the recent banking sector reforms were partly necessitated by issues relating to clarity of ethical standards and regulatory statutes.

“This serves as an added incentive to embrace and enforce the Ghana Banking Code of Ethics and Business Conduct,” he said.

The Ghana Banking Code of Ethics and Business Conduct was developed as a joint effort of the Bank of Ghana, Chartered Institute of Bankers Ghana and the Ghana Association of Bankers, with the objective of ensuring strict adherence to best banking practices and maintaining high ethical and professional standards within the banking industry in Ghana.

The Code is in line with Section 3 (d) of the Chartered Institute of Bankers Ghana Act, 2019 (Act 991), which reinforces the Institute’s mandate of setting standards and ensuring the observance of ethical standards and professional conduct among members of the country’s banking profession.

With rising cases of bank staff-generated fraud issues, Mr. Opuni believes that the effective and intentional collaboration of all these parties in the development process is in itself a tacit acknowledgement of the need to set and adhere to these ethical standards, which would then lead to a significant reduction in the cases of fraud via loopholes in technology and human errors.

“I am confident that going forward all stakeholders will play their role to ensure players within the industry abide by the directives enshrined in this document (Ghana Banking Code of Ethics and Business Conduct), and ultimately this will reap excellent returns for the industry, shareholders and the country as a whole.

“It’s critical to point out that the document also lays out a streamlined approach for dealing with complaints of unethical, corrupt, or unprofessional practices – with clearly outlined sanctions for infractions. I believe this clarity regarding the modus operandi for addressing breaches of the code also makes it easier to enforce the regulations, as there is very little confusion regarding what to do when ethical breaches are reported,” he said.

Media performance

The Fidelity Bank boss lauded the media’s role in providing platforms for in-depth discussions on ethics and regulations in banking, and by carrying out investigations into issues around ethical breaches.

“It’s a positive development for the industry, and I expect the media to continue and even do more in this regard to support our regulator and other stakeholders in maintaining ethical standards. There is no gainsaying the power of the media as an enabler and partner in enforcing the Ghana Banking Code of Ethics and Business Conduct.

“Accordingly, going forward, I suggest that our partners in the media should do more by giving visibility to measures which the industry has put in place to ensure high ethical standards.

“Also, give positive attention to banks that ensure they have a high level of adherence to the industry’s ethical codes. For example, highlighting banks that have not had any ethical breaches, and keep financial institutions on our toes by asking the tough and challenging questions which help hold us to account, he added.

Digitalisation and adherence to ethics

Mr. Opuni reminded his colleague bankers that as financial institutions migrate most of their systems, processes and services to digital platforms, it is critical to integrate the code of ethics into these digitalised processes and procedures in the form of controls.

“These controls must be monitored and adopted at all levels of the organisation. Our digital systems and processes must be configured such that relevant information is easily accessible to the appropriate stakeholders, and deviations or breaches from standard practice or protocols are easily detected or flagged for further investigation.

“Since this is still a very fluid area, it will require innovative thinking to build robust monitoring mechanisms; but I believe with the right systems design-thinking approach centred on ethical standards, we can develop robust protocols to forestall/block ethical breaches,” he added.

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