City view: Our purpose

A clearly stated purpose serves as a useful check that all stakeholders’ energies are focused in the right area
by Jane Playdon, Review editor


The CISI has had a mission statement since its inception in 1992, but never a stated purpose, until now. It is:

To champion lifelong learning and integrity, raising individual standards of knowledge, skills and behaviour globally to enhance public trust and confidence in financial services.

Some of our eagle-eyed members may notice a similarity with our mission statement, which is:

To set standards of professional excellence and integrity for securities, investment, wealth and financial planning professionals, providing qualifications and promoting the highest level of competence to our members, individuals and firms.

Both statements are clear about enhancing professionalism, which includes knowledge, skills and behaviour. But our mission statement sets out what we do, and our purpose statement sets out why we do it. ‘Mission’ and ‘purpose’ are two terms that are easily confused and there is no single definition of corporate purpose but, in short, they can be viewed as the difference between what a firm does and why.

Does what you are doing contribute to your firm's purpose? If not, why are you doing it?

More specifically, as one interviewee notes in our special report on purpose, published in June 2020, purpose can be defined as the answer to the question “How is the world a better place by your company being here?”

This is a question that many firms have been considering, following the FCA’s identification of purpose as one of four key drivers of behaviour in its Approach to supervision, published in April 2019. Its subsequent review of purpose in financial services, which involved a series of roundtables, two streams of which were run by the CISI, culminated in a March 2020 discussion paper (DP20/1), Transforming culture in financial services: driving purposeful cultures. It states in the introduction: “The purpose of a firm sits at the heart of its business model, strategy and culture and should play a fundamental role in reducing potential harm to consumers and markets.”

Our challenge was to look beyond what we do and identify the driver, or heart, behind all stakeholder decisions, bearing in mind that as a charity, we serve the wider public, not just the membership. In March 2020, we published a City View on ‘Purpose and profit’, announcing the beginning of a consultation with all stakeholders.

We ran a series of workshops with around 300 people across the UK, including staff, Board members, forums, committees, National Advisory Councils, and members. The pandemic brought activities to a temporary halt, but we resumed in September 2020, eventually distilling those discussions into two purpose statements, and inviting colleagues and members to vote on their preferred choice. 

Out of over 4,000 votes, 2,811 (67%) opted for the statement that you will now find listed clearly throughout our site, with our Board accepting our recommendation by a margin of 2:1 that this statement be adopted as the Institute’s purpose.

CISI CEO, Simon Culhane, Chartered FCSI, said in a subsequent message to all staff – but applicable to a much wider audience, given the growing emphasis on purpose –  that this statement “provides us with a useful check that our activity and energy is being focused in the right area. We should ask ourselves, ‘does what we are doing contribute to this purpose?’ If it doesn’t, then we should question why we are doing it.” 

Published: 28 May 2021
  • Training, Competence and Culture
  • Integrity & Ethics
  • purpose special report
  • Purpose
  • mission statement
  • CISI purpose

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