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Global Ethics Day...

Trust, and ethics are key considerations for the professions of Accounting, Management Consulting, and in the wider City...


Continuing our developing relationship with the ACCA, after the successful Education Supper this year, we partnered with them to support Global Ethics Day, in October. We managed to secure Mansion House as a venue, and the Lord Mayor Charles Bowman as a speaker, for a breakfast event bringing together key stakeholders to discuss the topic of ‘Trust in the City’

Trust, and ethics are key considerations for the professions of Accounting, Management Consulting, and in the wider City. The breakfast recognised the strong links between ACCA’s work on ethics and the City’s Business of Trust initiative, a project that addresses the “crisis of trust” which has afflicted, not just the City, but a range of global institutions over the decade since the financial crisis.

In a wide-ranging debate, it was recognized that trust has a clear economic value:  those organisations that create and sustain trust can operate efficiently and effectively, winning both staff and customer loyalty. Those that destroy trust risk losing their social license to operate altogether.

Master David Johnson highlighted that whilst consultancy as a profession might depend on trust, individual consultants can face no sanctions for ethical breaches.  Complex networks of highly specialised professionals exist without any linkage of the risk of their activities, or the ability to take a broader view of their clients.

This fragmentation is reflected in regulatory structures and codes, and raised questions about the value of corporate governance. The view round the table was that corporate governance can’t be seen in isolation, and that regulation can only go so far. We spoke a lot about behaviors and the personal conduct of the individuals that make up a Board.

We talked about leadership, and how “tone at the top” is also vital.  Boards may complain of the difficulty of cascading their values through the organisation, but they also need to be aware of the “power of their shadows” and the need to lead by example;  - how you do business is as important as what you do.

On Global Ethics Day, it was inevitable that the question would arise of whether global ethics is possible: can there be a global standard in a world of such disparate cultures and beliefs?  The ACCA has a single code of ethics that applies to all members everywhere – and this is precisely why governments and employers value those members.  And the City Values Forum has developed the City Obligation - a personal pledge which draws on universally understood principles such as “my word is my bond” and applying the Golden Rule of “do as you would be done by”.

But the effectiveness of such codes, voluntary or otherwise, rests on public awareness. We’re acutely aware that both in the UK and internationally the public are often unaware of the ability to invoke professional ethics and to seek redress from their accountants.  The transparent process of making assessments and levying sanctions might seem initially to create bad publicity, but experience shows that when people feel their complaints are being heard and treated with respect it increases trust and loyalty.

Following on from the successful event, WCoMC are continuing the dialogue with ACCA on how we can work together to improve standards across the professions, and in the wider City. The theme of ‘professionalism in management consultancy’ will also be the topic for next year’s Education Supper – to be held on the 11th of June, at HQS Wellington (back, by popular demand).







Frank Brown, Assistant