Professional Ethics and Regulation

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Professional ethics is concerned with the personal and corporate standards of behaviour expected of individuals working in acknowledged professions. These ethical behaviours are of great importance when a business provides service to the public especially when their actions or inactions have consequences on the stakeholders. As a bank, GHF is a business which must be built on a foundation of trust in order to ensure its continued survival. Its customers and other stakeholders at large must believe that the bank is concerned about creating all-round value and is not just interested in pursuing the self-interest of a select group of individuals. Over the years, the bank has gone through a number of changes. While not bad in themselves, some of these changes have revealed lapses in corporate governance and internal control. Together with a declining ethical stance, the bank has generally fallen to a place of disrepute in the sight of its stakeholders and the public. While some of the negative image projected of the bank may not be based on facts, it is important to note that reputations are built on both facts and perceptions thus, it is important that a firm is viewed positively by society in order for it to survive. In order to rebuild the ethical standards of the bank and restore it back to its place of trust amongst its stakeholders, immediate actions must be taken to resolve the issues surrounding declining ethical standards, poor corporate governance and weak internal controls. These actions will basically revolve around the bank’s work team as an idea is only as good as the people who are available to implement it. In all, the bank must be ready to work hand in hand with it stakeholders to ensure that it once again rises to its place as a bank of the people. Changes have to be made and the Board must have the will implement those changes and be at the forefront of championing professionalism. TABLE OF CONTENTS Assignment Cover Sheet1 Executive Summary3 Table of Contents4 Introduction5 Analysis of the Problems Existing in GHF Bank5 Matters to be addressed by the Board of Directors8 Proposals for Rebuilding Ethical Standards to Restore Stakeholder Trust9 Recommendations and Conclusion 11 References12 INTRODUCTION The banking sector plays an important intermediary role in any market-oriented economy today by using various financial instruments to obtain surplus funds from those who have chosen to forgo current consumption and making those savings available to the deficit spending unit for the purpose of investment. As major stakeholders of a country’s financial assets, the banking sector is directly involved in the development of a nation’s economy in terms of growth and stability and it prevents large potential risk for financial and reputational losses. In order to avoid these risks, it is important that banks adopt ethical principles while carrying out their professional and corporate responsibilities to all stakeholders, as to promote trust and confidence in the banking industry. These ethical standards apply not only to the banking industry as a whole but also to individuals working within the industry as personal life values are reflected in work ethics. ANALYSIS OF THE PROBLEMS EXISTING IN GHF BANK A number of changes which the bank has embarked on and decisions which it has taken have currently led to a negative impact on the perception of customers and other stakeholders of the bank. While some of the criticisms against the bank are based on impressions, it is important to note that a bank’s reputation is not only built on facts but also on the perceptions that people outside the bank have of its services and operations. Some of the problems facing the bank include:

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  1. Recruitment of Staff Without Proper Induction on the Bank’s Corporate Ethics and Culture

The bank recruited two senior executives who seem to have different personal values and business culture from the values and culture hitherto reflected by the bank. While the bank had previously conducted its business based on a traditional approach over the years, the new executives had a consequentialist approach to situations which focused only on benefiting a limited number of stakeholders[1]. As a result, the executives brought in new methods aimed at improving the bank’s bottom-line and perceived image as a “boring and conservative” bank and were not ultimately concerned with core responsibilities or a sense of duty to others including the customers. This eventually led to a conflict of interest arising from self-interest. The marketing approach in selling the new products was not properly channeled and segmented on customers ‘needs’ and ‘affordability’ criteria. The on-boarding process for the new executives ought to have enabled a gradual or step-wise introduction of the new marketing strategies, where deviation from the traditional culture is gradual and almost unnoticeable.

  1. Miss-Selling of Products

Customer relationship managers received commission-based payments for each life insurance policy or interest rate product sold. Thus, they focused on selling more products in order to beef up their commissions and ignored their obligations to the customers which include full disclosure of all the pros and cons of the product being sold; and a full explanation of what the product entails including the pricing terms. This approach has resulted to customers becoming disgruntled with the bank’s services and has led to somewhat disbelief in their bankers. This will affect the bank’s ability to attract repeat business from affected customers or new business from prospective customers thus jeopardizing the possibility of long term sustainability of achieving sales targets and attracting business.

  1. Failure to Exercise Due Care to Customers

The bank failed to properly educate its customers on the features and pricing of its insurance products, thus, customers bought into products which they did not need or could not afford in the long run. In doing this, the bank was professionally negligent. This creates a run of confidence on the bank and probable disrepute making the customers believe that the bank does not consider their interests. A reasonable level of duty of care by the bank is necessary in boosting confidence and assurances from customers.

  1. Negative Impact on Bank Stakeholders on the closure of 40 Branches in the Rural Areas

While the closure of economically unsustainable branches is not an issue in itself, the process surrounding the closure and the fallouts from the closure has led to a number of issues. A number of employees were rendered redundant and paid only the basic severance fees. This could have a negative impact on the bank’s reputation in terms of staff welfare and also affect the attitude of other staff currently working in the bank or new staff which the bank may wish to employ in the future. Additionally, the uprising being championed by the bank’s union could lead to disruption of services even in other branch locations. The bank also failed to make adequate alternative arrangements to meet the banking needs of their customers of the closed branches. This poses a reputational risk to the bank in terms of service delivery. In all, the bank failed to take its stakeholders, notably its customers and employees, into consideration when taking the decision to close the rural branches. Thus, it failed to balance its needs to make profits with its corporate social responsibilities to its staff and customers. This failure led to a negative reputation for the bank[2].

  1. Use of Fear Tactics as a Marketing Strategy

While there could be a need to sell a product to a customer because he may actually need it, it is important that the sales techniques being used by the bank should be based on a sense of duty to serve the customer. Fear / high-pressure techniques which forces customers into buying products that they do not need, albeit under duress, are ethically wrong and often bring about one-off sales. They also discourage customers from using any other product or service offered by the bank, as there may exist the fear that such a product could further harm them financially.

  1. Corporate Governance Issues

The bank awarded “across the board” salary increases for executives even in the face of declining profitability, reputation and low growth levels. The effect of this is heightened when the minimum payoff made to redundant staff from the closed branches is brought into view. This remuneration scheme has been made possible as a result of failure of the bank’s corporate governance. Remuneration strategies and policies have been formulated by focusing on the needs of a small subset of the bank’s stakeholders (the executives) at the expense of the majority. As a consequence, the bank has earned itself a negative image in the sight of its stakeholders, the media and public.

  1. Low Social Image from the Media

The banking business is one that is founded on a bedrock of trust and reputation. With negative media image relating to the bank’s processes, current and prospective stakeholders will begin to have a negative perception of the bank. While this perception may not be based on facts, it is important to note that reputations have been built or marred over the years by the perceptions of individuals towards organizations[3].

  1. Possible Liability from the Proposed Replacement of Senior Executives

The bank could face possible litigation from its proposed replacement of executive officers. This could lead to reputational disrepute especially in the face of an already negative media image. It could also have financial consequences.

  1. Ineffective Feedback Mechanism

There is little or no existing feedback mechanism or strategy that would have enabled the bank notice the declining reputation and growth early enough, before it becomes clearly public knowledge and more difficult challenge to handle. MATTERS TO BE ADDRESSED BY THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS In light of the problems analyzed above, a number of issues have to be addressed in order to lay the foundation for rebuilding the bank’s ethical standards and restoring stakeholder trust. These include:

  1. Staff that have been rendered redundant by the closure of branches should be properly remunerated as a matter of urgency in order to restore the belief of staff in the bank in terms of their welfare. Some of the closed branches can be strategically reactivated to provide micro insurance and micro savings products, in which disengaged, but efficient staff can be re-engaged. These will not only avail financial services to existing and new customers within such areas, but also provide new products that can promote the bank’s profitability and growth.
  2. The salary increase awarded to bank executives needs to be reviewed. Remuneration should be based on performance of the bank and not on a need to satisfy the executives. An independent appraisal for performance improvement of the senior executives, by the entire bank’s staff will be a positive feedback; this will ultimately provide information for the review of senior executive’s remuneration or disengagement.
  3. The Board needs to rebuild its remuneration policies so that remunerations are based on a balance between the need to retain a certain cadre of staff, their performance and the bank’s long term goals.
  4. Staff Awareness and Training: Customer-facing staff of the bank needs to be adequately trained to enable them provide proper feedback to customers especially in areas where branches have been closed. They also need to be trained on proper methods of marketing bank products. As mentioned above, the marketing approach in selling the new products has to be properly channeled and segmented on customers ‘needs’ and ‘affordability’ criteria. Marketing strategy howbeit aggressive, should be customer focus and driven by every sense of corporate responsibility.

Also of importance is the building of technical competence in customer service personnel in other to enhance their professionalism.

  1. The bank should urgently consider alternative options of providing services to its customers that have been affected by the closure of branches. These could include the use of regional branches to cover a number of areas, or the introduction of correspondence banking through other banks.
  2. Code of Conduct and Ethics: A documented code of conduct and ethics in line with the bank’s beliefs should be developed outlining the expected behavior of staff. This should clearly mirror the positive traditional values of the bank, which customers have hitherto enjoyed.
  3. Ethical Standards of the Bank’s Current Staff: The personal ethical beliefs of the current staff of the bank needs to be assessed in relation to the expected behaviors reflected in the bank’s code of ethics. This is as business ethical conducts are most likely a reflection of personal ethical conducts.
  4. The bank’s recruitment process: The process of recruiting new staff needs to place more focus on the ethical beliefs and culture change of the prospective candidates to ensure that they do not run completely parallel with the views, ethics and culture of the bank.
  5. Introduction of policies on work standards including consequences for breaching laid-down standards. Adherence to these standards should be enforced and monitored by the bank’s internal control.
  6. Customer Enlightenment / Education: As part of the bank’s policies, the Board should set out guidelines relating to customer education on products and services in order to ensure that customers are fully aware of every aspect of whatever product or service they are buying into.
  7. Renegotiation of Customer Payment Terms for Bank Products: Payment terms should be renegotiated for customers who are already tied with the bank’s products and are facing challenges in making payments. This will ease the pressure on the customers and improve their belief that the bank is concerned about them.
  8. Customer Reward Systems: In order to compensate those customers who have already bought into products which they no longer feel they need or can afford, the bank should offer rewards to customers who are able to meet their payment targets in order to encourage more customers to do so. A dinner, shopping, holiday, etc voucher can be rewarding and encouraging to customers, while improving the bank’s loan/premium recovery and ultimately profitability.

PROPOSALS FOR REBUILDING ETHICAL STANDARDS TO RESTORE STAKEHOLDER TRUST In order to rebuild ethical standards and restore trust in the bank, a number of recommendations are proposed including:

  1. Review of the Employment Process: Before a new employee is recruited into the system, he should be made aware of the bank’s ethical stance and culture. The recruitment process should seek to discover if a candidate’s personal ethics is in line with that of the bank and that the on-boarding process is lucid, with the ability of making most employees become in sync with the bank’s ethical conduct and culture.
  2. Review of Corporate Governance: Employee remuneration and/or benefit increases should not be arbitrary, but based on facts arising from feedbacks or performance appraisals. Remuneration should be tailored in such a way as to produce long term motivational effects. The bank should introduce shares, share options and pension rights as part of the remuneration package.
  3. Corporate Social Responsibility: The corporate social responsibility of the bank to stakeholders (especially customers and host communities) should be enhanced, as this will ultimately improve its media and public ratings.
  4. Employee Education and Training: This will enable the bank’s staff provide concise, sufficient and detailed product awareness pitches to customers, thereby preventing possible conflict of interest, and enabling customers make the right decisions.
  5. Employee Motivation: The need for employee motivation cannot be over-emphasized, as the current staff disengagement will trigger disloyalty and non-commitment. The bank should create various incentive schemes (such as family vacation, retirement trainings, etc) that will further motivate the staff.
  6. Customer Education: A detailed product brochure should be produced (print, emails, bank’s website, etc) for each of the bank’s product, this will ensure that customers are sufficiently provided with adequate product information, even when the bank’s marketing staff are hasty in explaining the product. These product brochures should have a lucid FAQ (frequently asked questions) section.
  7. Feedback Mechanism: An efficient customer feedback has to be implemented, aside the call center, a complaints desk at each bank branch should be activated, and every transaction completed by a customer should have a feedback slip. Rather than focus only on calls for debt recovery, the bank should make random calls to understand what and how the customers feel about their services.

RECOMMENDATIONS AND CONCLUSION The challenges faced by the bank have mainly being as a result of a failure of corporate governance, internal control and poor ethical values. Professionalism requires that corporations and the individuals working in them live by values. Thus, it is important that the bank follows the proposals that have been set forth in this report. The impact of these proposals should be reviewed quarterly to give room for an assessment of the bank’s progress and opportunities to make amendments if needed. It is of utmost importance that all staff of the bank be carried along in this transformation process as the only thing better than a great idea is the people who will implement it. REFERENCES Sachdev, A. (2014, June 29). “Is Corporate Tax Loophole Unpatriotic?”, Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from Professionalism, Ethics and Regulation (2013). London, UK: BPP Learning Media Kelechi-Uloh, Nneoma – 500375529 Professional Ethics & Regulation 2013141 of 11 Assignment Cover Sheet Version 1 1/9/10

[1] Based on the Teleological Approach to Ethics [2] The Stakeholder Approach to Professional Ethics. Note also the case of the USA based Company ‘Walgreen’ in its Corporate Tax Loophole Dilemma reported by the Chicago Tribune (Sachdev, A., 2014). [3] Refer to the reputational damage suffered by Arthur Andersen as a result of its relationship with one of its clients, Enron.

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Professional ethics and regulation. (2017, Jun 26). Retrieved December 2, 2022 , from

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