Diamond’s in the Rough: Bankers’ Values and CSR
So just when we thought the banking industry couldn’t get embroiled in another ethical scandal, Barclays gets a £300 million fine for artificially manipulating the Libor – the interest rate for inter-bank loans – to maximise profits. This asks all sorts of questions, not least was this not a criminal act, but I want to pick up on something Barclays Chief Executive Bob Diamond said about it:
“I am sorry that some people acted in a manner not consistent with our culture and values.”
This is a very interesting statement. Culture and values manifest themselves in behaviour, not carefully crafted mission statements. If 14 people at Barclays have been caught fiddling the system (who knows how many more were complicit) and others have been fired from other banks for doing the same, it suggests that such ducking and diving is very much part of the culture and the true values of the banking sector. The most shocking story in the press at the weekend was that Allied Irish Bank had sacked or marginalised three successive Chief Internal Auditors for reporting corrupt practices to the board – an astonishing disregard from the top of the organisation for even staying within the law.
If Diamond really does want to create a new culture and values in Barclays, he’s clearly got a huge challenge on his hands. He has already given up his bonus to try to demonstrate leadership responsibility, but with politicians and press lining up to call for his head, it might not be him who takes it on. As I write, it has been announced that Marcus Agius, the Chairman of Barclays, has stepped down but this may not be enough blood on the boardroom floor yet to satisfy the public.
The lesson from the banking mire for the rest of us is clear – leaders can believe the culture and values of the organisation to be those in their glossy corporate brochures, but it is actual behaviour, not words, which is the real test of corporate social responsibility.