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COMMENTARY: Safeguarding financial ­firm cultures: five focus factors for directors

Board members have the difficult job of overseeing the success of a firm without getting involved in day-to-day management or operations.  Increasingly, they are expected to understand compliance and other risks of misbehavior, particularly as those risks have been shown to impact financial performance.

In a commentary I co-wrote with Mike Silva, Partner and Chair of the Financial Services Regulatory practice at DLA Piper, we emphasize the role of corporate culture in promoting good behavior as well as financial stability.

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The Echo Effect of the Bear Stearns Collapse: The Loss of Trust

In the wake of the 10 year anniversary of the collapse of Bear Stearns, we’ve been considering the long-term impact of the financial crisis and its reverberations on Main Street today. For many, there’s been a seemingly permanent shift in how they view Wall Street, including its purpose and the people who have been charged with managing their hard earned money. While the economy may have recovered since the Great Recession, there are numerous former investors whose levels of trust in financial companies have not.

In a recent piece in The Wall Street Journal, writer Jason Zweig spotlights how the collapse of Bear Stearns wreaked havoc on the sense of fairness among everyday investors and “what psychologists call ‘belief in a just world,’ the notion that, on average, we get what we deserve.”

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Bank Culture Reform & Behavioral Science Event April 9

Ethical Systems is partnering with Thomson Reuters Legal Managed Services, Regulatory Intelligence, and Starling to put on a panel event on Bank Culture Reform & Behavioral Science.

 

Location:

Thomson Reuters 
3 Times Square
30th Floor
New York, NY 10036

 

Date and Time:

Monday, April 9th
8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ET

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Jon Haidt Presents Keynote on "Maintaining Ethical Culture" at Global Ethics Summit 2018

In today's polarized political climate, it is even more important to know how to engage in constructive dialogue in order to advance mutual business interests and perpetuate a sustainable organizational culture of ethics and respect.

Addressing this head on, Ethical Systems co-founder Jonathan Haidt delivered a mid-day keynote entitled Maintaining Ethical Culture in a Political Whirlwind on day 1 at Ethisphere's Global Ethics Summit 2018.

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Featured Expert Mira Dewji, Attorney, Adjunct Professor and Strategic Advisor

Featured Expert Mira Dewji, Attorney, Adjunct Professor and Strategic Advisor

What are your current areas of work and instruction?

I’m a practicing attorney in the social impact sector and an Adjunct Professor in the Business and Society Program at NYU’s Stern School of Business. I provide legal and strategic advice to high-impact social enterprises, small businesses, foundations, and nonprofits whose means and ends align with my values. I see the law as a tool with which I can craft, protect and facilitate my clients’ social objectives. Perhaps because my clients are organizations and not individuals, my interest in business ethics is at the organizational level. When social impact is framed as ethics, it adopts a powerful lexicon. A business or industry’s responsibility becomes more than merely a conversation around compliance with law or private sector benevolence. Social impact encompasses the duties and relationship between an organization and the environment that facilitates its existence. 

From this perspective, it is not sufficient for an organization to maintain certain ethical practices with key stakeholders such as employees, customers, and partners. Designing systems that define and foster company values such as honesty, integrity, transparency, accountability, trust, and ethical leadership are essential. But organizations also participate in shaping societal values and outcomes, and the extent to which a company embraces that responsibility is a reflection of its ethics.

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NY Fed Offers New Insights for Financial Services Firms

There are two new resources on the Governance and Culture Reform site of the Federal Reserve Bank of NY that highlight the regulatory trends with respect to managing culture in financial services firms. 

The first is a transcript from an event at Thomson Reuters on February 7, 2018, which was a moderated discussion among Bill Dudley (President of the NY Fed), Bill Rhodes (WR Rhodes Global Advisors), and Ellen Alemany  (Chairwoman and CEO of CIT Group), moderated by Rob Cox (Reuters News).  The panelists covered a wide array of matters relating to the topic of Banking Culture:  Still room for reform?

Dudley highlighted that while some progress has been made, there’s still much room for improvement.  For example, the NY Fed has proposed a banking registry to keep track of whether employees have left their jobs for reasons of fraud or other misconduct.  This would address the so called “rolling bad apples” problem, whereby companies may inadvertently hire a rogue employee of another firm because employment law discourages employers from sharing potentially derogatory information about former employees.  He mentions that the U.K. has perhaps made more progress on this matter, having already established a similar registry.

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Company Snapshot: Conscious Capitalism- Core to The Container Store’s Success

The third of three Company Snapshots, these research-based pieces by guest author Jessica Guo look at aspects of successful companies that can be examined for strategy and information of benefit to both active businesses and the academics that study them. See our first company snapshot examining culture and values at Costco and our second company snapshot looking at how values around sustainability and responsibility drive culture and integrity at Patagonia.

 

Company Snapshot: Conscious Capitalism- Core to The Container Store’s Success

According to a 2012 study by the global management consulting firm Hay Group, retail stores typically see turnover of 67% in part-time employees. Yet the Container Store, a leading storage and organizational products retailer, boasts an annual store employee turnover rate of only 10%.

The Container Store’s employee satisfaction translates directly into bottom-line success: the company has grown from a founding $35,000 investment in 1978—about $131,000 in today’s currency—to earn over $800 million in net sales in FY 2017. “A good capitalist will see the value of what we’re doing,” co-founder Kip Tindell says. “We would not be as profitable if we did less for our employees and vendors.”

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Company Snapshot: “Don’t Buy Our Products” – Ethics at Patagonia

The second of three Company Snapshots, these research-based pieces by guest author Jessica Guo look at aspects of successful companies that can be examined for strategy and information of benefit to both active businesses and the academics that study them. See our first company snapshot examining culture and values at Costco.

 

Company Snapshots: “Don’t Buy Our Products” – Ethics at Patagonia
 

When asked what he thought made a good company, Yvon Chouinard replied with one word: responsibility.

Despite being the founder of a retail consumer brand company Patagonia, Chouinard is also a conservationist who advocates for anti-consumerism. He believes that Patagonia has “made a contract with our customers to make clothing as responsibly as possible.” To that end, Chouinard actively encourages his consumers to “think twice before you buy a product from us. Do you really need it or are you just bored and want to buy something?”

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The Ethics & Compliance Initiative Partners with Ethical Systems

ARLINGTON, VA, February 7th, 2018 – The Ethics & Compliance Initiative (ECI), the nation’s oldest ethics research and best practice community, today announces a partnership with Ethical Systems, a research collaboration comprised of the nation’s leading scholars specializing in the study of ethical culture and behavior in organizations.  As two respected thought leaders who share a common interest in advancing the highest standards of ethical behavior in organizations, this partnership will provide a platform for both parties to conduct joint research, to develop new metrics, and to expand their reach with new insights that will shape best practice in organizational ethics. 

“This partnership has great promise to significantly enhance our understanding of the importance of ethics and culture in organizations,” said Patricia Harned, ECI’s CEO.  “ECI is delighted to be able to work closely with the most highly regarded scholars in our industry, and we look forward to the collaboration that we know will benefit organizational leaders and students in higher education.

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Company Snapshot: At Costco, Culture is King

The first of three Company Snapshots, these research-based pieces by guest author Jessica Guo look at aspects of successful companies that can be examined for strategy and information of benefit to both active businesses and the academics that study them. Additional Company Snapshots will be published on Mondays for the next two weeks.

 

Company Snapshots: At Costco, Culture is King

“Culture is not the most important thing in the world. It's the only thing.” 

According to Jim Sinegal, founder of retail giant Costco, the company’s culture drives its business strategy. Costco’s success turns on its ability to recognize and respect what Sinegal calls “what we stand for in the customer's eyes, and what we mean to all of the stakeholders in our business.” Those core tenets include putting the customer first, rewarding its employees, and valuing its suppliers.

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