The Banking and Finance Oath
1. Trust is the foundation of my profession
Is banking and finance a profession?
While we are not a professional body regulating professional codes of conduct, our role is to help uphold and put greater emphasis on the moral and ethical standards in the banking and finance profession.
Doesn't it only matter that our clients trust us?
Ultimately the trust of all is required, particularly in banking and finance where actions can impact more than just a client but rather the wider society.
2. I will serve all interests in good faith
To whom does this refer?
This refers to all stakeholders impacted or affected by your decisions and actions in your role. Stakeholders may include yourself, the client, your employer, shareholders, the community and the environment.
Is it possible to serve everyone in good faith?
It should be noted that this tenet does NOT require all interests to be served equally. The interests of different parties will often need to be ranked in order of priority. That said, irrespective of how a person's interests might be ranked, they are to be dealt with in good faith. For example, a Signatory should not deliberately or recklessly mislead or deceive a person whose interests are affected by their conduct.
Isn’t my main responsibility to my employer (then the owners of my business) – to the exclusion of others?
As noted above, it is possible (and at times it is necessary) to prioritise the interests you serve. For example, there may be an overriding obligation owed to an employer. The principle to be applied here is that even 'subordinate' interests should be addressed in good faith - even when giving priority to the legitimate interests of an employer, if such a choice is required. However, it is hoped that conflicts will be few; as to have regard to the interest of others – especially clients – is essential to the creation or preservation of a sustainable business.
3. I will compete with honour
Why have you used the word honour and what does it mean?
To act with honour is to act freely and without shame. Underpinning the development of The BFO is a belief that signatories should take personal responsibility for their professional conduct – as a matter of choice rather than in response to the requirements of regulation and surveillance. It is an aspect of honourable conduct and a commitment to the moral and ethical standards, that signatories to The BFO will be accountable to other signatories for their adherence to The BFO – meeting their obligations as a matter of choice rather than conformance.
Banking is competitive. Can I still be competitive if I sign The BFO?
We understand and acknowledge that the banking and finance industry is competitive however we believe that the outcomes individuals and organisations are seeking can be achieved by competing fairly and with respect for others, just as sportsmanship is not sacrificed at the Olympics.
4. I will pursue my ends with ethical restraint
What if I want to exercise ethical restraint but my boss or colleague doesn’t?
The BFO is an individual commitment and does not bind your employer. You could however remind your boss or colleague of your commitments under The BFO and the moral and ethical standards you and others choose to adhere to.
Can ethical considerations really change a deal?
Yes they can and there have been many examples of this being the case.
Won’t we lose deals if we do this?
There may be deals you decide not to pursue; however at other times deals may be won on the basis of ethical restraint.
5. I will create a sustainable future
What does sustainability mean in this context?
We are using this term in its broadest sense imagining a future where appropriate moral and ethical standards are upheld and a good quality of life is enjoyed by all.
Is it our responsibility to create a sustainable future? Isn’t it everybody’s?
Yes it is everybody’s responsibility, however there will be times when your decisions or actions will impact the industry and society more broadly, it is at these times that you should consider your commitment to a sustainable future founded in the moral and ethical standards.
How can I become a signatory to The BFO when the bank I work for is involved in deals that could be perceived as harmful to the environment?
We encourage you to influence your colleagues and those in your wider work environment where it is possible and appropriate to do so. However, The BFO is a personal commitment - and not dependent upon institutional endorsement - nor is The BFO binding on organisations where a Signatory is employed.
Is it OK for some ventures to be focused on the short term?
Yes, some ventures are legitimately focused on a short-term outcome however consideration should still be given to possible future impacts and effect on extended stakeholders.
6. I will help create a more just society
Is it our responsibility to create a just society?
Yes it is, as the society we maintain now forms the basis for future generations.
What is just anyway?
Just embodies fairness, morals and ethics. A just society is one where our interactions are governed not only by laws and regulations but by a broader sense of justice where individuals are treated fairly and individual rights respected.
7. I will speak out against wrongdoing and support others who do the same
Is this whistleblowing?
No, we are referring to the moral courage required to speak up in the existing frameworks within which you work. Whistleblowing could be seen as a last resort of failed work cultures.
Who do I speak to?
If practical you should speak to those who work closest to you and understand your work. Particularly you should seek out others who are committed to The BFO.
How can I support others?
You can support others by being aware of when they may feel conflicted or concerned. Allow them to voice these concerns and assist with finding a resolution or help to identify someone more appropriate to assist.
8. I will accept responsibility for my actions
Isn’t it up to others to look after themselves?
To some degree, however we have responsibility for what we do as individuals and we should be aware of the impact of our decisions.
9. My word is my bond
How binding is someone’s word these days?
One’s word is extremely powerful in creating trust and trust enables the efficient functioning of business and order in society.