Before I share some elements of this culture, it is worth pointing out that GetCapital is a young business - 4 years old and only 75 staff. We have had the benefit of building our business from scratch, with complete control over prioritizing company objectives, establishing corporate values and developing a unique culture. Clearly, most financial service companies don’t have the same degree of flexibility and are weighed down by size, legacy and a diverse set of stakeholders with competing interests.
With that said, below are some of the philosophies and approaches we adopt which we believe have raised the ethical standards in our organisation.
1. Culture is key. Policies and procedures easily deal with the “black and white” ethical issues, but the thorny ethical questions are always in the grey area where individual judgement needs to be applied. Individuals will look to their own values, the corporate values and the actions of the people around them in coming to a decision. At GetCapital we work hard to hire the right people in the first place (people that share our values) and then reinforce to our staff our corporate values every chance we get.
2. Incentives drive behaviour. Having a pithy set of corporate values and then remunerating employees based on sales targets communicates a clear message to staff as to the corporate priorities. At GetCapital we don’t pay commissions to staff. Instead, the entire company is focused on three clear corporate-level objectives – financial performance, customer satisfaction and a measure of responsible lending. Having one team all focused on a common set of objectives removes self-interest from the equation and ensures everyone’s incentives are fully aligned with the objectives of the company.
3. Corporate values are defined by how people act (not by what is written in the new starter pack). We talk a lot about our corporate values at GetCapital. We expect them to form an integral part of our day-to-day actions (and they also play a key role in our performance review process). These values are condensed into 3 simple guiding principles that form a mnemonic based on our name (G.E.T) - so that all staff should be able to remember them!
G. Growth. Growth for our customers, employees and shareholders. We have demonstrated that by focusing on helping our customers grow, the growth opportunity for our other stakeholders comes naturally.
E. Extreme Ownership. We have a culture of owning outcomes. Part of this is accepting responsibility for our actions, part of it is about speaking up and having our views heard when we have an opinion.
T. Trust. We recognise trust is a two way street. We need to earn trust everyday – from our customers, our partners, our shareholders and each other. Transparency and honesty with all our stakeholders is a foundation of this principle.
4. Ethics is a skill, not a trait. In my experience, ethical decision making is a learned skill. The more exposure people get to debating ethical problems the more grounded in ethics their decisions become. At GetCapital we have a culture of encouraging debate and discussion on key decisions and an expectation on staff that they speak up if they disagree with a course of action. This ensures that decisions are informed by a wide range of perspectives and individual values. It also provides good checks and balances that our decisions are in keeping with our corporate values.
5. You need to prioritise corporate values otherwise they get bargained away. One area of development that our team recently identified is the lack of any structured ethics education for staff. We now plan to roll something out in 2018. Our thinking is that some formal ethics training will supplement what we currently do and further embed the ethical framework we have worked hard to develop. We are keen to continue to look at new ways we can embed our values deeper into our business so that we never run the risk of values being negotiable in the pursuit of any individual or company objective.
Jamie Osborn is the Founder & CEO of GetCapital. GetCapital is a leading alternative lender to SMEs in Australia, providing a range of finance products including working capital loans, trade finance, equipment finance and secured loans.