Governance, Ethics and Sustainability

Contents

Overview

A. Discrimination

B. Exploitation

C. Corruption

D. Dishonest and Fraudulent Behavior

E. Whistleblower Protections

F. Enforcement

References

Overview of Code of Ethics at Westpac Bank

Every bank is a financial institution and every institution is bound by certain code of conducts without which they cannot function properly. Such code of conducts actually creates a lasting impression on the minds of the customer and other stakeholders of any institution belonging to any industry. In the light of the recent misconduct of banking ethics by the famous Westpac bank of Australia the common public has lost faith on that bank and both economically and ethically the goodwill of the bank is under huge stress. Such unethical behavior by a bank can only create social and economic turmoil which can only cause harm to the overall economy of that nation (Menezes, 2016). As a corrective measure the need of the hour is to formulate a very stringent and exemplary code of ethics that needs to be adhered by the Westpac bank without slightest deviation. The Code shall describe the standard of conduct expected from both employees and customers. While designing such a code of ethics the prime emphasis would be on the following aspects ;

A. Discrimination

As a financial institution the bank must be impartial in treatment of its customers. Rules should be made sacrosanct for anyone and everyone. Rules are always being made to facilitate a system and the people who are serving that system and are also being served by that same system. So any discrimination is not to be tolerated (Cull, & Bowyer, 2017). The recent scandal showed that certain activities were allowed to be performed going beyond the permissible norms of banking which means undue advantage was passed on to some separate sect of customers which were otherwise not supposed to be permitted for any customers of the bank since these acts were prohibited under the code of conduct of banking norms. The result of allowing and practicing such discriminatory activities are lying in front of the world. The goodwill of the bank has been maligned to the utmost extent and all the top brass of the organization has been compelled to pay the price for showing such lackadaisical attitude on their part (Johnson, 2019, November 27).

At Westpac, we value the contributions of each and every employee. Diversity of employees helps to foster a work environment characterized by diverse ideas and stimulating work experience. At the same time it also implies that the workforce at Westpac reflects various customer groups we are committed to serve. We are committed to address as well as respond to a wide range of opportunities and needs.

  • We shall not tolerate discriminative or prejudiced conduct within the workplace as well as against the workplace based on race, nationality, colour, religious beliefs, gender or marital status;
  • We shall not tolerate discriminative or prejudiced conduct either by or against suppliers, customers contractors or other individuals who are engaged in business with us

B. Exploitation

In today’s world majority of the banks are made out of public funds only so any lapse on the financial management of a bank would actually lead to a misappropriation of public funds only. It is the public money which forms the life blood of any banking institution and any act of misconduct that leads to fraudulent activities involving such public fund is a criminal offense. As a public institution the bank is liable to answer to the public and every other stakeholders of the bank for any such misconduct. As in this case by allowing such money laundering activities to happen on repeated occasions has actually shown that to what extent the bank as a public institution which is totally formed by public funds has exploited the public not only financially but also ethically as well. It has simply shattered the faith of the common people which they had so long entrusted on the institute and invested their hard earn money in the same bank (Cull & Melville, 2018).

As an organization Westpac is strongly against any types of exploitations be it within or out of the organization and the bank is bound to ensure the same on the basis of the following ethical codes:

  • No exploitation of internal employees by using power or influence of superior rank
  • No exploitation of public fund which has helped to form the bank
  • No exploitation of public faith which has been the biggest pride of the bank
  • Extreme vigil to be maintained to identify and abolish any possibilities of any such exploitation.

C. Corruption

This is the root cause of all evils especially when it is found to be active within the system. External factors will always try to find a loophole in the existing system and would also try to take full advantage of any such loopholes but it is ultimately the responsibility of the internal members or the employees of the bank to check and prevent any such incidents from happening but even then when such misdeeds are found to take place in spite of having the regular checking mechanisms in right place it proves that corruption has grown within the system and the very owners of the system are now busy disowning them and allowing such misdeeds to happen.

These internal resources or employees of the bank do not care for the public fund which has been invested in a bank nor do they care about the brand image or the overall impact such acts would have on the economy, they are simply driven by their vested interests which results to greater harm for the institution. The problem with corruption is that it can exist in any level of the hierarchy, from the top most to the lowest level. So it is somewhat difficult to identify it immediately but once there is a slightest chance of identifying the same then the root of the corruption within the system can be traced back to its origin and the necessary corrective measures can be adopted accordingly (Zaring, 2019).

So as a renowned financial institution the Westpac bank will ensure that:

  • Employees are not supposed to give or take any undue advantage to and from the customers or vendors
  • Equal degree of penalization across all levels of hierarchy if found guilty of corruption
  • Zero tolerance for any such instances of corruption

D. Dishonest and Fraudulent Behavior

This is just the other side of the coin of corruption. They always walk hand in hand. Corruption is the cause while dishonest and fraudulent behavior is the effect. Every act of corruption within the system is equally supported and nurtured by acts of dishonesty and similar fraudulent behaviors. We have to always keep in mind one thing that be it corruption or dishonest acts and fraudulent behaviors, all these can be carried on by the internal members of the institution only which means the employees of the bank are the biggest offenders when it comes to the matter of dishonest activities and fraudulent behaviors.

Not all but a few are driven by ulterior motives and are equally blinded by their goals of individual vested interest hence they care for no ethical code of conduct while working for a public institute like a bank and misuses the power of the system which with they are endowed with and cheats the mass. It has been a time tested and proven fact that any scandals in any bank of the world has always been possible due to the act of dishonesty and similar fraudulent behavior of its employees only. Only when such employees are involved in misconduct does such banking scandals take place (McLaren, Kendall & Rook, 2019).

The bank is determined to prevent any and all types of dishonest and fraudulent behaviors for which the following codes needs to be implemented:

  • Employees must be honest to the organization
  • Employees must strictly adhere to the laid down code of conduct as per banking norms
  • Any act of dishonesty or possibility of fraudulent activity should be immediately reported to the senior authority
  • Any such act of dishonesty and fraudulent activity would be dealt with utmost strictness and would invite legal actions as per the existing law of the nation.

E. Whistleblower Protections

They are the actual well wisher of any organization who dares to call a spade a spade but just to save them from the wrath of the offenders the provision of whistle blowing has been introduced. Here who ever informs the relevant authority about any misdeeds happening in the system, that person’s identity is kept secret so that even if the offender belongs to the highest level of the system then also he cannot exert undue pressure on the whistle blower by exercising his power and coerce him to take back his complaints. Such a protection policy is very vital for the smooth functioning of any big institution in today’s world. The recent event in this bank showed the lack of any such whistle blowing activity which proves that even if some people were aware of the misdeeds they were apprehensive of reporting the same to the relevant authority may be they were not certain about the maintenance of their anonymity within the system or were afraid of being ridiculed by the powerful offenders who were there in the system (Menezes, 2016)

To encourage and promote the practice of whistle blowing the bank will adhere to the following ethical codes as proposed:

  • To ensure appropriate protection for the honest employees who shows the courage to report
  • To reward them for sharing the truth based on which the institute can actually prevent further damage to itself
  • To ensure the protection of their rightful individual interests

F. Enforcement

Till now we had been in the planning phase now comes the execution phase of the entire activity. As a need of the hour the bank badly requires to design and draft a code of ethical conduct in place based on which the future operations and day to day activities of the institution will be carried on but the success of any such ethical code depends on its proper execution or enforcement. A law is effective only when it is enforced in real life otherwise merely keeping it for the sake of records within the pages of law books will never create the desired impact envisaging which such laws were formulated (Masters & Hall, 2019).

Enforcement of the code in respect of all the above mentioned 5 parameters is to be ensured strictly as follows:

  • Discrimination in any form-be it within the employees of the organization based on caste, creed, religion or gender or with the external business associates like the vendors and customers are strictly prohibited
  • Any sort of exploitation whether by a powerful employee over his subordinates or exploitation of a customer by any employee of the bank by virtue of his rank will not be allowed at any cost.
  • Zero tolerance for any degree of corruption across any level of the hierarchy within the organization.
  • Any act of dishonesty and similar types of fraudulent behavior would invite strict legal action against the offenders
  • The organization will encourage and promote the culture of whistle blowing by supporting it in every possible means as per the measures mentioned above.

References for Code of Ethics at Westpac Bank

Cull, M., & Bowyer, D. (2017). Ethics in Financial Planning: Myth, Fact or Rhetoric Paradox?. e-Journal of Social & Behavioural Research in Business, 8(2), 56-69.

Cull, M., & Melville, B. (2018). A review of ethics education in financial planning courses in Australia. Financial Planning Research Journal, 4(1), 11-32.

Johnson, E. (2019, November 27). Why Heads Are Rolling at Another Big Australian Bank. Bloomberg. Retrieved from www.bloomberg.com.

Masters, A., & Hall, K. (2019). Corruption in Australia and New Zealand. Corruption in a Global Context: Restoring Public Trust, Integrity and Accountability among Public Leaders and Governing Institutions.

McLaren, J., Kendall, W., & Rook, L. (2019). Would the Singaporean approach to whistleblower protection laws work in Australia?. Australasian Accounting, Business and Finance Journal, 13(1), 90-108.

Menezes, A. (2016). Business Ethics and Its Importance in Banking Industry. International Journal of Scientific Research and Modern Education (IJSRME), 1(2).

Zaring, D. (2019). Regulating Banking Ethics: A Toolkit.Seattle UL Rev., 43, 555.

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