During this past year I have been attending meetings of the Trust Advisory Group organised by Charles Bowman, the current Lord Mayor of London. The group has been brought together to support the theme Charles has chosen for his mayoral year in office: Trust in Business. The focus is on supporting trust in financial and professional services organisations. The list of advisors is wide and the work that Charles has been doing has been really impressive.
There are parallels between encouraging trust in financial and professional services organisations and supporting the professionalism of individuals. While the focus is somewhat different, the methods that the Trust in Business project has been using are instructive.
Arguably, building trust in the City is far a bigger ask than enhancing trust in the professions and in professionalism perse. As was noted in one of the meetings, it is easy to lose trust, but much harder to gain it. One needs to do more than act in a trustworthy manner, though of course that is essential.
Well before the financial crisis of 2008, there have been gathering problems for financial services in particular, due in some part to the depersonalisation of banking, as well as misselling scandals and rising complaints.
Responses to these issues need to be robust and with this background in mind it is easy to see how appropriate the Trust in Business initiative is.
The principles of the ‘Business of Trust’ got whittled down from a larger number which were focused largely on customer obligations rather than other stakeholders.
- Competence and skills – or doing what you do well.
- Integrity – or being straightforward and reliable.
- Value to society – and helps to meet wider societal needs.
- Interests of others – and respects the interests of customers, employees and investors.
- Clear communication – or transparency, responsiveness and accountability.
There are lessons for our forthcoming project on Promoting Professionalism here. The principles are useful to be aware of but more interesting is the process that the Business of Trust initiative has pursued.
Besides a literature search for guidelines, standards and codes of conduct, the group held meetings of Citizens’ Juries to review the findings and to gather opinions on what ordinary people thought of financial and professional services. Then individuals from the Citizens’ Juries presented at a joint meeting with the Trust Advisory Group. This was very instructive. What people wanted mostly was to be treated fairly and without hidden agendas.
The next step has been to bring the financial and professional services community together to define practical steps to bring the guiding principles to life. This has involved publishing ‘The Business of Trust’ and publicising the five objectives in the form of a ‘place mat’ survey. This survey asks which of the CIVIC values people regard as most important and why. Charles has been very successful at getting responses and I look forward to seeing the results.
The Business of Trust programme has been promulgated by many events and meetings both in the UK and abroad. Charles is spending much of the year in on aeroplanes around the world.
Book onto PARN’s forthcoming Promoting Professionalism meeting here
Professor Andy Friedman, CEO of PARN