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Raising the level of maturity in banking and finance – An introduction to the Maturity Institute

Tuesday 9 May, 2017
by Paul Kearns, Chair The Maturity Institute
While working their Banking Governance & Culture Project, the Maturity Institute in the UK came accross National Australia Bank (NAB) and in turn The Banking and Financial Services Oath.

Raising the level of maturity in banking and finance – an introduction to the Maturity Institute

As Chair of the Maturity Institute (MI) I recently connected with Cris Parker of The Banking and Financial Services Oath and was so impressed with the initiative that I took the Oath myself. I don’t work in banking or finance: or at least, they were not my chosen profession. My career has been dedicated to the field of ‘people management’; although these days I tend to use words such as ‘human governance’ and ‘human capital management’, which more accurately reflect the very high, professional standards I try to achieve. I say ‘dedicated’ because, to me, people management was always equivalent to a doctor’s vocation to medicine and I have argued for many years that those who are responsible for the management of people should be prepared to take a similar, Hippocratic oath. These are the shared values and principles that led to the establishment of MI in 2013.

Although banking and finance appear to have become ‘public enemy number one’, especially since the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 (although it is not over yet); if any finger pointing is to be done then maybe it should have chosen a different target – leadership and management education across all sectors. If you work in banking or finance, you have probably already asked yourself many times whether your own manager has all the necessary skills to realise your full potential value whilst reinforcing your own values? Even the best, most naturally talented, managers have to work within the constraints and pressures of the system that governs their behaviour. Good managers, who would never dream of breaking the law in their private lives, can find themselves compromised within a system that has become so perverted and corrupted (e.g. the sub-prime mortgage market, mis-selling questionable products etc.) that they can only survive by going with it and not sticking their neck out. So, rather than rush to judge the players in the system we should be healing the system itself. This is MI’s purpose.

MI’s philosophy is based on two simple ideas. One, banks and finance companies are here to serve society’s needs, not shareholders. By serving society’s needs as well as they can, shareholders’ long term interests will be well served. Two, whether they like it or not, business leaders cannot operate in a vacuum; every company is part of the whole, global financial system and has to acknowledge that fact and behave accordingly. Ticking compliance boxes is not good enough; banks and finance companies now have to demonstrate their societal legitimacy even more than legality. This is a point that MI has put to the Fed in the US, the Bank of England and UK regulators (all of whom already liaise with their counterparts in Australia). Now the leadership and management shortcomings of the global banking system will soon be made plain in the final report from MI’s Banking Governance & Culture Project.

In fact, it was only when I was involved in the research for this project that I came across National Australia Bank (NAB) for the first time and learned about how the bank’s leadership had all taken The BFSO. Australia has shown its courage and resolve to the rest of the world; it has stuck its head above the parapet and shown true, principled leadership. MI modus operandi is to determine and set global standards for human governance and the management of highly valuable human capital – people. Australia, with its BFSO, has already set the standard for the global banking system and others will have to follow or be viewed accordingly. As Chair of MI, I can assure you that we are already highly active in promoting this standard for educating leadership and management, across all sectors. MI is a multi-disciplinary, professional institute that includes accountants, lawyers and a wide range of other professionals. Taking an oath of good corporate governance is the only way they can elevate their professional status to a much higher and more mature level.


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The Oath

  • Trust is the foundation of my profession.
  • I will serve all interests in good faith.
  • I will compete with honour.
  • I will pursue my ends with ethical restraint.
  • I will help create a sustainable future.
  • I will help create a more just society.
  • I will speak out against wrongdoing and support others who do the same.
  • I will accept responsibility for my actions.
  • In these and all other matters;
    My word is my bond.