Since the financial crisis banks across Europe and the US, several banks have been bailed out by taxpayers or have been allowed to fail or have been taken over. Surviving banks are being subjected to tighter regulation, greater capital requirements and much more scrutiny.
The spotlight has been shone on the way in which banks, large and small, investment and retail, have conducted their businesses, sometimes with apparent disregard to the needs of their customers and the results have generated a massive loss of public trust in banks.
In his speech "Rebuilding Trust in Global Banking" of 25 February 2013*, Mark Carney, soon to become our new governor of the Bank of England, focusses on this loss of trust. Among others he cites LIBOR manipulation and money laundering as examples of the departure from core values. Mark Carney is explicit about how essential the re-discovery of core values is.
Antony Jenkins, the relatively new boss of Barclays wrote a "behaviours letter" to the Barclays staff at the start of this year setting out what he called "our new Purpose and Values" and the need for Barclays to be a "values driven business". The 5 values he describes in the letter are Respect, Integrity, Service, Excellence and Stewardship. He goes on to say that performance assessment will be based not just on what is delivered but on how it is delivered. His message for those who don't feel they can fully buy into an approach which links performance to the upholding of the values is that Barclays is not the place for them.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) which has taken over the conduct supervision of 25,000 financial firms in the UK is also taking an approach that emphasises the importance of culture in driving behaviour and how the FCA will assess this and less "box ticking". In particular, the FCA says that the right tone has to be set at the top (by the CEO and members of the senior management team). The FCA say that they don't want to directly supervise culture but encourage a positive culture change and their Detailed Distribution Review sets new professional standards and places greater emphasis on individual as well as corporate accountability.
The idea of changing the culture is at the heart of these initiatives, not legislation or yet more regulation. But as ever the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.