“Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do”. Potter Stewart
Last week, I discussed the implications of the new Code of Ethics and Business Conduct recently launched by the Chartered Institute of Bankers, Ghana. It has come at a period when the reputation of bankers suffered a serious blow arising from the collapse of various financial institutions and loss of depositors’ funds. Despite the refund of these funds by the Government of Ghana, some depositors are still reeling from the effect on their businesses.
2020 has also been a year of mixed emotions, with a combination of the good, bad and ugly. Covid 19 has brought hundreds of thousands of fatalities, while at the same time, brought families and even nations together to help each other weather the storms of the pandemic. Within the banking sector, digital banking, which has been with us for some years, took a different turn, as most bank customers resorted to onboarding of virtual platforms to perform most banking transactions.
As we close the year, let us all resolve to bring back the image of banking as a profession built on the principles of honesty and integrity, as the motto of the Chartered
Institute of Bankers, Ghana depicts.
THE A- Z ETHICAL PLEDGE
A – I will be ACCOUNTABLE in all my actions
B – I will be BOLD enough to question controversial decisions.
C – I pledge to CONSIDER the effect of my decisions on all stakeholders in the financial institution.
D – I will always do DUE DILIGENCE on all prospective account holders before onboarding.
E – I pledge to conduct the bank’s business in the best ETHICAL and professional way
F – I promise to treat all customers FAIRLY.
G – I pledge to GET my act together since customers vote with their feet.
H – I pledge to HONOUR the bank’s service promises to the customers.
I – The word IMPOSSIBLE will not be in our path to drive customer satisfaction.
J – I pledge JUSTICE and fairness to customers.
K – I pledge to KEEP customers affairs confidential
L – I will continue to LISTEN attentively to customers
M – I promise to take good care of the customers’ MONEY.
N – I will always say NO to bribes offered by customers
O – I pledge to make good use of all OPPORTUNITIES given to me by the bank
P – I will always PROVIDE information on products and services and potential risks to customers
Q – I pledge to exhibit the service QUALITY standards of my bank.
R – I pledge to give RESPECT to all customers I serve
S – I pledge to deliver service with a SMILE at all times.
T – I pledge to handle all customers’ TRANSACTIONS with diligence and care
U – I promise to be an UMBRELLA to protect customers’ funds
V – I pledge to be VIGILANT in conducting all affairs of the bank
W – I promise to make my bank a WINNER at all times
X – My solemn pledge to customers is like the melodious tunes from a XYLOPHONE.
Y – I promise to say YES to all positivity around me
Z – I promise to take the bank to its ZENITH.
Ethics after the Financial Meltdown of 2008
After the global financial meltdown in 2008, many financial institutions took ethics more seriously. A company’s Code of Ethics is a form of best practice that allows the organization to embed values and behaviors in company culture. To be successful, the firm must undertake specific procedures, including training and professional development, managerial leadership and certification and enforcement practices. A prominent example is Goldman Sachs’ Code of Business Conduct and Ethics in light of public and regulatory scrutiny following the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) as well as reforms and revisions administered by the firm.
Banking and financial regulators around the world are now speaking about ethics and promoting an ethical culture in finance openly. Leaders among the world’s major bank supervisory bodies, and top-level executives in international banks, are doing the same. This is a change from the pre-GFC (Global Financial Crisis) era. In the past, regulators, bankers and the financial academy spoke of efficiency, market determined guidance and consequently, ‘light-touch’ supervision. Perhaps in some small measure the increasing willingness to include ethics in the dialogue about finance is due to the work and research of leading religious and independent non-governmental organizations. The Seven Pillars Institute has always stressed that the separation of finance theory from ethics is artificial.
Obligations of Banks to Uphold the Image of the Noble Profession
Dear readers, the above example of the effect of the global meltdown and the seriousness that ensued on embedding ethics in financial transactions means that Ghana is on the right path. Members of the banking fraternity needs to take it to a new level to regain its good reputation and the public confidence. In the light of this, financial institutions need to include extracts of the new code in their internal code of ethics. Bank employees are required to adhere to the code. I also recommend that bankers have the following key areas of ethical principles at their fingertips:
- to comply with the pertinent applicable laws in the course of performance of their job duties;
- to keep their customers informed about benefits and risks of products and services offered to them;
- to provide neutral and fair services to customers buying the same service;
- not to disclose any information about banks or their customers, which come to their knowledge due to their positions and duties, to any person other than the authorities and bodies clearly authorized by the laws to request such information;
- not to lead to any loss of reputation of the bank through their works and behaviours;
- not to directly or indirectly engage in any business operations which require them to be considered and treated as a merchants or customers.
- not to breach and violate the justice, honesty, integrity, reliability and social responsibility principles;
- to communicate with other employees carefully and respectfully and enter into cooperation with them for joint purposes or motives, in the course of performance of their job duties;
- not to use the bank’s assets, properties and resources inefficiently and for non-intended purposes;
- not to derive any personal benefits for themselves or for others out of their own work environments or their customers’ facilities by using their job positions and duties;
- to immediately refuse, and report to superiors and authorized bodies, any offers or propositions of personal benefits;
- to direct potential customers first and mainly to their own bank;
- to avoid entering into non-ethical relations with customers, such as indebtedness, personal guarantee and opening of joint accounts;
- not to accept any gifts contrary to customs and usage from existing or potential customers;
- to be accountable with regard to their job duties during performance of banking services;
- not to assume any duty in any other private or public entity without a prior consent of their bank, except for associations, foundations, cooperatives and similar other organizations;
- not to cause harm to reputation of banks and other financial institutions, and not to attempt to denigrate and humiliate their business partners, shareholders, employees and customers, in media and social media, profiles, accounts or postings, by using their own identity, or by concealing identity or using misleading identities;
As we close the chapter on the year 2020, it is our wish that we take stock of the year and resolve to regain the lost image. On this note, I wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alberta Quarcoopome is a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers, and CEO of ALKAN Business Consult Ltd. She is the Author of two books: “The 21st Century Bank Teller: A Strategic Partner” and “My Front Desk Experience: A Young Banker’s Story”. She uses her experience and practical case studies, training young bankers in operational risk management, sales, customer service, banking operations ethics and fraud.