Ever since the inception of the CISI, ethics and integrity have been central to its mission and purpose. In 2005, the Institute became one of the first professional bodies in financial services to have a Code of Conduct, based on the Code formulated by the Worshipful Company of International Bankers and drafted by Anthony Belchambers, then CEO of the Futures and Options Association (now known as FIA Europe) and member of the CISI Integrity & Ethics Committee.
Professionalism needed an ethical dimension
The Code was adapted by Simon Culhane, Chartered FCSI, Scott Dobbie CBE FCSI(Hon) and Alan Ramsay FCSI(Hon) to suit the Institute’s needs and membership. Philippa Foster-Back CBE FCSI(Hon), a member of the Integrity & Ethics Committee from 2002 to 2020, said that the Code evolved through a recognition that in professionalising the advice sector, there needed to be an ethical dimension. “I do think it was a big step,” she says, “as it was a mark in the sand to those working in the City that this is important, and that acting ethically is part of doing business, part of looking after customers, and part of getting repeat work.”
"There’s never a crisp answer, it’s always a debate, which epitomises ethics" The Committee, chaired for the past two years by Handelsbanken’s deputy CEO Tracey Davidson, a CISI Board member, continually monitors and refines the ethical mandate its members must abide by. But debate about best practice is a constant, with the Committee’s ‘Grey Matters’ ethical dilemmas, published in The Review, consistently generating many comments and online views from members, who also have access to 41 ethics Professional Refreshers.
“These resources can really get into the minutiae, such as if a practitioner moves firms, should they try and get their clients to come with them? There’s never a crisp answer, it’s always a debate, which epitomises ethics,” says Tracey.
Annual Integrity event
The Committee also organises its Annual Integrity event, which was held both in-person and online for the first time ever in 2021.
More than 1,000 members attended in total, split between 93 at the venue in London and the rest from more than 40 different countries. It has since been watched nearly 2,000 times on CISI TV. The 2022 event was even more successful, with over 160 joining in person and over 1,000 joining online from around the world.
Tracey says there is now a “much greater emphasis” on the sector to be ethical, with practitioners keen to constantly cultivate their knowledge in this area.
Mandatory integrity test
In 2013, the Institute became the first professional body to require UK candidates taking customer-facing entry-level examinations for wholesale/capital markets financial services activities to pass an integrity test, overseen and guided by the Committee. At the time of writing, nearly 100,000 integrity tests have been taken since it was introduced.
The fact the organisation and its members are pulling in the same direction on this front is positive, especially as memories of previous crises and controversies can take years to fade.
“Before I was at the CISI, there was the endowment mis-selling scandal; it wouldn’t be right to say that was led by someone who intended to cause harm; they saw a business opportunity, but didn’t think through the unintended consequences,” Tracey explains.
The emphasis that CISI members now put on broader social issues is also noticeable, she adds. “The social awareness of issues in our workplaces is becoming wider, and discussions have turned to environmental, social, and governance (ESG), discrimination, bullying in the workplace, and equality and diversity.”
Importantly, the Committee has focused on these issues too, with Tracey stating that during her tenure as chair, she’s been actively bringing in people with different perspectives, such as younger members and those with diverse backgrounds.
Elsewhere, the Institute’s ethical efforts have focused more recently on the likes of the Senior Managers and Certification Regime, anti-money laundering legislation, as well as ESG investing.
As Philippa states, whatever the focus, it’s vital that ethics are considered at the outset, because “it’s difficult to introduce them at the end as people’s frameworks are already set”.
The Institute’s focus on integrity means that members are rightly viewed as trusted stewards of investment capital by clients in periods of heightened uncertainty.
While the external challenges that the CISI has faced, and will no doubt continue to face, have warranted different approaches, its fundamental principles have remained the same, enabling it to emerge as a stronger, reinvigorated organisation. And as the world grapples with climate change, emerging digital asset classes, and a plethora of social issues, those principles will be integral to the CISI and its members emerging on the other side.
This article is an extract from our special report in our 30th anniversary edition of The Review, published in September 2022.
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