Royal Commission highlights importance of individual accountability


John Laker

The Board of The Banking and Finance Oath (The BFO) welcomes Commissioner Hayne’s focus on honesty and individual accountability in the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry.

In the Report, Commissioner Hayne emphasises the need for institutions and staff in the financial services industry to have a clear understanding “of what is ethical, of what is efficient, honest and fair, of what is the ‘right’ thing to do”. These are the values that underpin the Oath.

The Oath is an initiative of industry leaders, begun in 2012 in affiliation with The Ethics Centre, that is designed to strengthen the ethical foundation of the financial services industry by encouraging self-reflection and ethical decision-making. The Oath contains a set of commitments that individuals can freely adopt and apply as personal principles in their work – principles that complement and reinforce the norms of conduct highlighted by Commissioner Hayne.

The Final Report acknowledges the role of industry codes of ethics in fostering public confidence and practitioner integrity, and makes recommendations to strengthen their enforceability. The Oath is not an industry code – it is a personal commitment with moral but not legal force – but it sits readily alongside industry codes that set out norms of ethical behaviour expected of participants.

The BFO will prioritise its discussions with institutions and industry bodies on strengthening the ethical foundations of the financial services industry and, in particular, on promoting greater professionalism in the industry. The BFO provides an obvious focal point for the ethics component of any professional accreditation initiatives.

The BFO Chairman, Dr John Laker, says “The Final Report is a clarion call to the financial services industry to prioritise ethical decision-making and individual accountability in its dealings with the Australian community. This is the time for individuals committed to the good of the industry to reflect on what they want to stand for and take responsibility for their own behaviour. We know the right culture – one built on ethics, honesty and accountability – allows the right behaviour to thrive.”

A growing number of industry professionals at all levels – executives, middle managers and other staff – have expressed their commitment to the industry by signing the Oath. Others who wish to put ethics at the forefront of driving change in the industry are encouraged to join them. The Royal Commission has created a tipping point for the financial services industry, and if ever there was a time to take the Oath, it is now.

Anyone who would like to become a signatory to The BFO can find out more at

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