The Oath

Trust is the foundation of my profession.

I will serve all interests in good faith.
I will compete with honour.
I will pursue my ends with ethical restraint.
I will help create a sustainable future.
I will help create a more just society.
I will speak out against wrongdoing and support others who do the same.
I will accept responsibility for my actions.

In these and all other matters;
My word is my bond.

The Vision

A banking and finance industry that
meets the community’s needs and has its full confidence thereby fulfilling its integral role in society.
Ethics, culture and conduct

I was recently asked to write a foreword for a book written by Dennis Gentilin[1], following his experience as a whistle blower in the FX trading scandal at NAB in 2004.

The book contains some confronting lessons for corporate leaders. All of us have a responsibility to insist on compliance with rules, regulations and other artefacts of governance. But as Dennis’ research attests, our most important obligation is to lead, through character and morality, the development of an ethical business culture.

Dennis emphasises that successful leaders will embrace humility. All organisations are fallible. And the coercive imposition of rules and regulations, even credible transparency mechanisms, cannot be relied upon to ensure ethical conduct; in certain cases these ‘command and control’ approaches can even make things worse.

Much more important than the monitoring of compliance risk management is the role played by corporate leaders, including boards, in framing and communicating the organisation’s purpose and values.
Tone from the top is not everything, but it does matter.

When a board is made aware of an instance of poor conduct, it should respond. It cannot always know whether the particular incident is isolated or indicative of a deep or widespread cultural problem. But it should take the opportunity to speak to the organisation about the incident; to explain why it sits uncomfortably with the purpose of the organisation and why it is inconsistent with the values of its people.

The Banking and Finance Oath – with its emphasis on trust, integrity, justice and ethical behaviour – provides an opportunity for leaders in banking and finance to get their heads in the right space for these sorts of conversations. You may be aware that each of the members of the NAB management team signed the Oath last year. Having looked at it myself, and assessed its compatibility with my personal values, I couldn’t see why I would not want to sign it too. So earlier this month I did. If you haven’t already accessed the BFO website and confronted the challenges presented by the Oath, then I would encourage you to do so.
People values matter. And corporate culture matters.

The core message in my remarks to you this morning is that the culture of an organisation derives overwhelmingly from the way in which its people think about and engage with its customers. Not only is that the principal driver of culture, it is also the principal driver of corporate success.

Running a bank successfully means having a good sense of shareholder expectations. It means attracting, motivating and retaining high performing staff. And it means knowing what it takes to attract reliable funding from depositors, institutional pools and other banks. But most importantly, it means having a very good understanding of what the banking customer wants.

As Chairman of NAB I have been learning from our customers, understanding what success for them looks like, and what that implies for the performance of our people. The NAB Board has introduced performance measurement tools with a customer focus. The Net Promoter Score is one of three key metrics by which we now determine executive remuneration. One-third of the performance bonus outcome for the CEO and each of the Group Executives at NAB is linked to customer advocacy. Remuneration outcomes are also dependent upon the executive demonstrating that he or she is living the values of the organisation: a passion for customers; a will to win; being bold; having respect for people; and doing the right thing. These values align with NAB’s goal to be the most respected bank in Australia and New Zealand.

The full speech can be found here