A Listen Up culture is the key to improving standards, says CISI in response to Banking Standards Board annual review’ ​

By Lora Benson | Mar 14, 2017

The Banking Standards Board (BSB) annual review 2016/2017 reveals that one in eight bankers (13%) say it is difficult to progress in their careers without “flexing ethical standards”

Simon Culhane, Chartered FCSI and CISI CEO said: “Ethics is, by its very nature, flexible. Ethical standards are not rules set by compliance, but guidance for situations when the way forward may not be obvious. Differing responses when faced with these grey areas is not a phenomenon exclusive to bankers. Our recent research showed how individuals cut corners or take advantage of situations in everyday life revealing that we are all fallible, and not immune to “behaving badly” in certain situations.

“For example, 39% of people surveyed in our research thought it would be acceptable to say nothing if a waiter had omitted a round of drinks from bill at a restaurant, and 43% of people believed it was acceptable to download video or TV content without paying. So, if flexing ethical standards is part of ‘everyday life’, are we being unrealistic to expect that this is not going to happen at work?

“What is particularly worrying, however, in the BSB survey is the implication that 13% of bankers who agreed with the statement “it is difficult to make career progression in my organisation without flexing my ethical standards” either feel it is necessary to ‘bend the rules’ in order to get ahead or, perhaps, are even asked or expected to do things which they feel are inappropriate.

“Employees who feel tempted or compelled to flex their ethical standards (act unethically) should feel supported to raise concerns when they experience or witness this. This is why having a Speak Up culture within firms is so crucial, and why the CISI are particularly concerned about the finding from the BSB survey that 27% of respondents said they are worried about the negative consequences for them should they raise concerns.

“The FCA and PRA whistleblowing rules, designed to ‘encourage a culture in which individuals working in the industry feel comfortable raising concerns and challenge poor practice and behaviour’ came into force in September 2016. The BSB report suggests that the rules have, so far, had little impact in helping employees feel supported and confident enough to Speak Up”

The CISI launched its Speak Up initiative in 2014, which aims to give employees the tips and tools needed to be confident raising concerns in the workplace.

“A key message from this initiative is that having a whistleblowing policy in place is good, encouraging a Speak Up programme is great, but having a Listen Up culture, where managers actually listen to concerns and employees know that they will be heard and supported, is best.

“The BSB research reveals that this is not yet the case. The CISI therefore strongly supports the BSB’s work for the coming year to help to develop a culture within the banking sector of responsibility and accountability rather than of blame. We suggest that a good place to start is to ensure that firms implement the FCA and PRA whistleblowing rules effectively and that organisations support and encourage staff to speak up when they observe wrongdoing.”