Firms must pay attention to ethics not just profit

Lady Rice: will open event on ethics and corporate culture. Picture: Neil Hanna
Lady Rice: will open event on ethics and corporate culture. Picture: Neil Hanna
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FINANCIAL firms must place ethics and behaviour on the same plane as boosting profits and shareholder returns to restore public confidence, a conference will be told this week.

The event in Edinburgh forms part of a series of international gatherings that have attracted speakers including Kofi Annan, the former United Nations secretary-general.

More than 70 senior business leaders are due to attend Wednesday’s conference, which is being staged by Trust and Integrity in the Global Economy (TIGE) in conjunction with law firm Tods Murray’s Women in Business Network. TIGE was established in the wake of the global banking and economic crises of 2007-2008.

Agnes Mallon, senior champion of the Women in Business Network, said: “Since the credit crash and the corporate crisis of 2008, the role of ethics in corporate governance has been high on the business and political agenda. Organisations now have to demonstrate to customers and stakeholders that a commitment to values goes beyond advertising and that they are genuinely transforming the way they operate.”

A series of mis-selling scandals, bailouts and bonus rows has made the banking and financial services sector the chief target of public ire. This week’s event on ethics and corporate culture is set to be opened by Lady Susan Rice, managing director of Lloyds Banking Group Scotland.

Rice said: “When things go well in a business, we tend to describe its success in numbers. But when they go badly, we blame behaviours.

“It’s curious that, because at the end of the day, it’s the people in a business and their behaviours, their values, their conscience which deliver the value. So, even in the best of times, should we not describe success in terms of both the numbers and the culture?”

Iain Wishart, a banking partner at Tods Murray, added: “Rebuilding trust is undoubtedly going to be a slow and difficult process for banks.”