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Professionalism and training key to restoring trust in financial services

by Lewis Panther | 21 Aug 2019
Professionalism and individual accountability are key to restoring trust in financial services, according to industry leaders.

APRA chairman Wayne Byers’ comments were echoed by Judo Bank founder Joseph Healy at a FINSIA conference aimed at the industry’s next generation of leader.

Both stressed the need to adopt an ethical framework to respond to the findings of the Royal Commission.

That their comments were made a week before the government announced a fast-tracked timetable to implement Kenneth Hayne’s recommendations shows bankers already have these issues front and centre of their thinking.  

Byers, who conceded APRA needed to deal with failings, was addressing the joint FINSIA and Banking and Finance Oath Crossroads conference when he highlighted the “importance of trust and professionalism for a successful financial sector”.

He said: “Initiatives such as the Oath, and FINSIA’s drive for a strong foundation of professionalism, are important building blocks for a stronger, more efficient, and more sustainable financial system. 

“They should be welcomed and embraced by industry leaders. 

“There is nothing to fear, and much to gain, from having a workforce that serves all interests in good faith, competes hard but with honour, exercises ethical restraint in their choices, speaks out against wrongdoing, and takes accountability for their own actions. 

“Designing frameworks, practices and systems, and developing norms, cultures and communities of interest that embed and reinforce these behaviours is undoubtedly a challenge but, I would proffer, more than worth the investment. 

“It will also make the task of the other layers of regulation – company, industry and Government – a great deal easier.”

Joseph Healy, whose start-up raised a record-breaking $400m and is set to loan $1bn to small businesses by the end of the year, made it clear society needed a trustworthy banking and financial services industry.

Healy, who insists every one of his staff has to do FINSIA’s professional qualifications, said: “Society has an expectation traditionally that they can trust the bank that they're dealing with, the banker who's providing advice to them, that that individual has their best interest at heart and is free from conflict. 

“In the same way that you would expect that of your doctor or your dentist, you would expect that they would have your interests at heart and they wouldn't seek to cross-sell you on things that you didn't need.

“Banking has to recapture its professional values and professional ethos.

“If this industry is to serve its true purpose to the domestic economy society and to the global economy, which it's uniquely placed to do, it does need to have a global professional recognised qualification that people see.

“There's a whole range of other things that have to be addressed. We can talk about culture. But at the foundation of culture is professional standards.”

Addressing the fact that the cultural changes needed to rebuild trust take time, Healy called on Australia’s bank bosses to lead by example.

“Few CEOs ever get the time to see a cultural change inside an organisation,” he acknowledged.

“But everybody has a license to say, I want my workforce to be the most professional workforce in the industry.  And I want people who will aspire to a career in this bank to commit to the professional standards that we believe are a part of addressing the challenges that the industry has to face.

“It is something that's in the control of every bank. 

“It's for the board to say, we want all of our staff who aspire - because you can't force it all the way through the system - who aspire to a career, to commit to doing the professional qualification for the industry. 

“And we will not appoint anybody into general management level or above unless they have either got the qualification, or have committed to achieve the qualification.”

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