1. What inspired you to join Banking and Finance Oath (BFO)? Can you tell us a little bit about your journey?
I had been working at The Ethics Centre since 2011 on various initiatives. I was approached to work on The Banking and Finance Oath (BFO) and there was quite a bit of buzz around it.
I don’t have a financial services background. I have a theatre and film making background and a Social Science degree. When I was approached to join the BFO team, I felt that the potential of the Oath in the then rocky environment could be profound and a good way to encourage this would be through sharing the experiences. “I think people learn from stories and I think humanising ethical situations helps people relate more easily”.
2. What advice can you offer young graduates coming into an industry that’s been under such scrutiny?
We have a Young Ambassadors Program for young professionals under the age of 30 and University students within financial services. The program provides an opportunity for the ambassadors to design an idea, product or campaign that addresses an ethical issue young people may encounter within financial services. We’ve seen a glimpse of what they’re working on and it is exploring integrity and being true to one’s word; they’ve found that once ‘code of ethics’, ‘culture’ and ‘values’ are written down it’s no longer culture, ethics or values – it’s policy. The Young Ambassador Program is now taking applications for next year and I would encourage both student and those under 30 within the industry who have real interest in ethics to apply.
What we have learnt from the young ambassadors is that they’ve not taken a lot of time to explore what values are important to them and where there ‘no go’ zones are. These are the kind of things that come up through life’s ups and downs and everyone is so busy – we should all take a back seat sometimes and think about these things.
I think a young person starting in this industry should be proud. Yes it’s an industry under scrutiny but so are all industries and that’s not a bad thing. Most people are in it for the right reasons. Be true to your values and don’t do what doesn’t feel right.
3. What initiatives are the BFO working on to further raise awareness of the Oath?
The BFO have various programs and yes they do raise awareness but they also live the values and help others ask questions about ethics and the individual’s role. We had our conference a couple weeks ago which raised awareness, we had great media coverage and positive responses.
We are going through a process of working with universities to consider including The BFO as part of the curriculum.
There’s now people who talk about the oath, ‘the oath is not an imposition the oath is an opportunity’. People within the industry are contacting us, to say we want to champion this. The purpose of the Oath, which is an industry initiative, is to create a common language around ethics and develop a network of like-minded people and this is what is happening.
4. Is there a time in ones career when you should sign the oath?
I suppose when you feel the time is right but in my opinion it should be as soon as you start your career. Even as a student, it’s a set of values and principles that provide an ethical framework you can apply to your work.
5. My understanding is a doctor takes a Hippocratic oath, is this oath the same thing for our industry?
Yes. It was loosely based on the Hippocratic oath, that’s a great way of describing it.
6. Where can we expect to see The BFO in the next 5 years?
We would like to see The BFO adopted by individuals as a part of supporting a strong ethical foundation and we are realistic this will take time. The BFO is there to provide a language around ethics that is important. “The oath doesn’t make you ethical, it relies on people who are ethical to take it and to consistently have ethics on the agenda".
We are speaking with individuals in larger organisations who feel very strongly about the Oath, recommending they create a ceremony and make it public, and even have a BFO Day dedicated to taking the Oath.
Although the Oath is for the individual there are several companies where everyone has taken The BFO and we hope that this will continue.
7. Once you’ve taken the oath, where to from here?
We encourage people to take the time to talk about the Oath and what the commitment means, call out issues of concern, embed and live the values. From a practical perspective, there is an insignia you get with your certificate when you take the Oath, which signatories can include in their email sign-off. It serves as a small reminder of the commitment both for themselves and their peers.
8. Are there any services that assist with working through an ethical dilemma?
The Ethics Centre has a service called Ethi-call. It’s a free and unique counselling service for anyone trying to work through an ethical dilemma. These problems can be personal or professional. It’s for those times when you are deciding between two wrongs or two rights or just the messy grey areas we encounter so regularly, it’s important to take advantage of this service.
“Ethics questions what ought I do – not what should I do – be comfortable with your own values”.
9. Do you think ethics is not being taught to the new generations by their parents and in school the way it was for previous generations and should this be something introduced at high school or younger?
There is a program in all NSW primary schools – where ethics is taught. It sits outside the Ethics Centre (it started there) and is called Primary Ethics. The Banking and Finance Oath regularly presents at Universities and ethics is a core part of the curriculum.