Many Board’s pivoted to new strategies last year – I think the Covid-19 pandemic was for many a call to action and created a pause in which boards could reflect on where they wanted to be post pandemic.
Besides “unprecedented times” the most often cited phrase has been “never waste a crisis”. Directors of The Banking and Finance Oath (The BFO) embraced both phrases as they reflected on where the organisation had come from, where it was at and where it needed to go. As we reflected, we confirmed that the notion of an ethical Oath in financial services was still relevant and supported, and that it could have a broader and meaningful role in an era of possibly lighter regulation and new types of players entering the finance consumer market. We also faced the reality that despite success in so many areas, it was a slow burn when it came to achieving a critical mass of signatories – something that would hamper the delivery of our strategic ambitions. We needed to find a way to leverage our success and overcome our resource constraints.
With this aim, we looked at different strategies, structures and possible partners. It soon became clear that dissolving our constitutional structure and melding into The Ethics Centre was the best strategy to leverage post pandemic opportunities. We were of course already close to The Ethics Centre as they were our only Institutional Member, we were part of its corporate group and its core focus was ethics!
More importantly we would be returning to our spiritual home. The BFO was born out of The Ethics Centre but like any good parent it insisted we be independent and stand on our own two feet financially, discover who we were, how we could contribute to society and better the industry. Having accomplished those things, The BFO could now return as a mature initiative to ready go to the next level.
As discussions progressed, both organisations recognised the strength of The BFO brand, the strength of our community of signatories and industry supporters, and the strength of our balance sheet. Both organisations also understand the need for The BFO to remain independent, and the value the breadth of The BFO ambitions could provide to all stakeholders.
After many months of work the final move happened on 28 February 2021.
I have been on The BFO Board since 2013, and firmly believe that The Ethics Centre enriches the opportunity for ethical discussions encouraged by The BFO activities.
As a director and a long-term member of financial services I’m thrilled by the enthusiasm and commitment of young people in the industry. I see this as a critical shift that will contribute to The BFO’s purpose of strengthening the ethical foundation of our industry. Given The BFO has now been around for eight years, I am disappointed by the low numbers of people taking the Oath, compared to those working in the industry. As a signatory, I challenge each of you to raise awareness of the Oath – in team meetings with your colleagues, with your leaders and amongst your industry peers. It is only through the ‘strength in numbers’ approach that we will be able to drive long-lasting change.
As a Board, we are grateful for the contribution of many legends and leaders from the industry, our regulators, our 100% Committed organisations, as well those institutions who provide funding support. Ultimately though The BFO is grateful to every individual who has taken the Oath and made a personal commitment to professionalism: Integrity, trust, ethics.
We also want to recognise the work of current and previous directors as well as the contributions of Clare Payne, Cris Parker and Jodi O’Callaghan.
This is not the end but a new beginning. Ethics is more important than ever and must be embraced and embedded within organisational cultures. We have to improve our level of ethical awareness at both a personal and organisational level. Last but not least we must strengthen our moral confidence to speak out against wrongdoing to create a more just society.