Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Ethical Banking

Academic journal article ABA Banking Journal

Ethical Banking

Article excerpt

"IN GOD WE TRUST, ALL OTHERS WE virus scan."

--Author Unknown

I truly believe that banking is one of America's most ethical professions. The bankers that I know--and I know many--deal fairly with their customers. They are honest in their dealings with shareholders. They treat their employees equitably. And the inevitable result of that fair dealing is that people trust us. It's something we can feel good about as an industry.

But let's not pat ourselves on the back too hard. Trust is still in the eye of the beholder, and Americans area skeptical bunch.

Late last year the Gallup organization asked the public what they think, in the survey company's annual survey of peoples' perceptions of the ethics of 23 different professions. One third of those surveyed (35%) rated bankers' ethical standards a combined "very high" or "high." We scored better than chiropractors (31%), state governors (26%), journalists (25%), senators (20%), business executives (18%), Congressmen (17%), lawyers (16%) and several others. Car salesmen came in at the bottom of the list at 7%.

That was the good news. Bankers fared worse than nurses, who scored the highest rating of all professions last year, 83%. They were followed by MDs and veterinarians (68%), pharmacists (67%), dentists (61%), college teachers, engineers and police (all 58%), clergy (56%) and psychiatrists (38%).

So bankers were 11th out of 23 professions. We can do better.

As a start, I think it's important that every bank makes sure its code of ethics is clearly written and prominently displayed. If you've got one, put it on the web for all our employees, board directors and shareholders to see. If you don't have a code of ethics, by all means get one. We all need a road map, and the public needs to know we have one. It's also important that we make sure people know that bankers and our employees live by those codes of ethics, and that we vigorously pursue trust in all our financial dealings. …

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