Jeff Judy

Jeff's Thoughts - June 28, 2017

Your Ethical Compass

I recently facilitated a discussion about ethics at the Western States School of Banking. The participants were practitioners in the financial services industry, representing a range of functions and levels at their various institutions.

Now, you might assume this course offering was a response to recent events in our industry, particularly with Wells Fargo in the (bad) news so often and so long. But, in fact, WSSB has long seen this conversation around ethics as being an essential component of comprehensive training in financial services.

Indeed, that was the starting point for the discussion, the idea that we all need to think about ethics before we face a difficult decision. Good decisions are harder to make in "reaction mode," when we suddenly realize we might have a problem and we don't have much time to work out the best resolution of that problem.

My goal for this group was to help each individual explore his or her "personal ethical compass," to think about the factors that would influence their thinking on ethical dilemmas. By building that compass in advance, they would have a tool they could apply when an ethical issue came up. They would have a way to step back and get their bearings, rather than making a quick decision without enough time to think things through.

We identified four points on this compass, four factors that might play into ethical issues that come across your desk. Your own compass might have different points, or more, or fewer. What really matters is that you explore your own ethical landscape, as it were, when you are not under pressure to take action on a specific situation.

The four points we explored:

Again, you may think about the points of your own "compass" differently. But most employees don't think about these points at all until a crisis hits.

Make time to work out the points of your compass now, and it will serve you well when a challenging decision about ethical practices rears its ugly head at your desk.