Malaysian banks need universal standards of professionalism and ethics

By Research

In order to avoid misconduct and malpractices which have happened in Wall Street and in the West, AmBank chairman Tan Sri Dato’ Azman Hashim feels that the Financial Service Professional Board can play a part in defining an acceptable code of conduct.

There is a need to ensure that professionals in Malaysia’s financial services industry behave and live by a code of conduct so that the misconduct and malpractices that happened in Wall Street do not happen here said Azman Hashim, chairman of AmBank Group, who also chairs the newly formed industry-led Financial Services Professional Board (FSPB).

“This code of conduct ensures that people who put themselves out as financers or bankers maintain a standard that people expect them to behave” he told the editor-in-chief of the Asian Banker, Emmanuel Daniel, during a video recorded interview on 21st April 2015 for the publication’s “The Banking Conversation” online channel.

He aims to have the standards apply to all professionals across the financial service industry, not just banking but also Insurance, Capital Markets, Islamic Banking and others.

In the wide-ranging interview, Hashim shared his views on topics such as how he started as an entrepreneur in banking, the board and governance of AmBank Group, issues of ethics and integrity in Malaysia, defining characteristic and values important to corporates to ingrain in their culture and more specifically on the personal values that he and his family live by.

Unethical behaviour and malpractice in financial services are global issues, including in Malaysia, and not just a problem of the West or Wall Street

When asked about the apparent contradiction of promoting ethical and professional standards in a country where behaviours counter to it are perceived to be “rife”, Hashim countered that this is a global issue that the industry has to address. “All countries are like that! It’s a matter of how much.” He equipped.

However, when it comes to individual organisations Hashim stressed the importance of having a transparent set of standards that is known and enforced in order to build trust. This is the basic underpinning of the financial services industry.

“The way we operate, we don’t tolerate things like dishonesty. We are a bank. People put money with us and we have to prove that we are honest. That is very basic.” He emphasised.

A culture of accountability must focus on fundamental values such as integrity, fair-play and meritocracy

Hashim recognises that there must be a culture of accountability with fundamental values that are transparent so that the organisation can be fully aligned. At AmBank Group, it starts right at the top.

“It’s probably my own behaviour and personality. Loyalty is one of them. Secondly, I have treated everybody as my partners and colleagues. Thirdly, there’s fair-play and merit-based recognition. I didn’t differentiate, it was purely on merit. People coming to an organization expect all that and that’s why they stay.” He explained.

Values are defined by personal conviction and passed on through exemplary behaviour

Continuing on the theme of fundamental values, Hashim believes that in order to foster these characteristics there must be a strong personal conviction as well as action to live them out. His own values are exemplified in the way that he and his family live. He spoke about how the same values are important to his children, although they are not be in financial services.

“I try not to pressure them into doing what I want them to do. They are free to make their choices. Passing on value is more by example ….. by how I behave with people.” He said.

“I think they are humble. I think they behave like ordinary children. They don’t behave like they have money. I grew up humble too….. Being humble is part of the Malay character: we don’t push ourselves forward (aggressively), we moderate.” He continued.

Azman Hashim chairs newly launched Financial Service Professional Board which will introduce draft of professional standards on 5 May 2015

Hashim is the inaugural chairman of the FSPB. It aims to develop clear, internationally recognised and universally applicable standards of professional conduct and ethical behaviour that are industry relevant.

It is based in Malaysia and intends to promote the standards to other parts of the Asia Pacific region once successfully adopted in the country. Hashim disclosed that the draft standards will be available to the industry on 5 May 2015 and there will be a 60-day period for “interested parties” to respond.

Categories: Asia Pacific, Australia, Governance, Leadership, Malaysia, Operational Risk, Regulation, Risk and Regulation
Keywords: Tan Sri Dato’ Azman Hashim, AmBank, Ethics, Financial Services Professional Board, Governance, Family Values
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