Bank Culture Must Change Before Public Can Trust

Even though the economy is on the rise, U.S. banks have been forced to look at their culture. The banking system is not rebounding as it should. Many attribute this to the failure of post-crash financial reforms to mend the defective cultures of banks. Honestly, banks won’t be able to make appropriate adjustments unless they’re trusted. A bank’s reputational capital can affect the wider economy and the bank’s long term success.

A recent study by the Group of Thirty investigated how bank cultures have been affected by cries for cultural reform. They discovered that banking cultures are not really pushing passed the high standards of integrity that the government and public have called for.

There is the issue of spouting a principle but not living by it. It’s not that banks don’t understand the concept of reputational capital, it’s just that management often treats efforts to restore the public’s trust as separate or secondary to their main jobs. Whenever a large amount of money is a stake, for example, many banks still sink back to shady or less than revealing practices.

Living the principle begins with managers and CEOs setting up systems to monitor dishonest behavior or practices especially by upper management. If they find behavior that could jeopardize the bank’s reputation, those guilty should be punished consistently and publicly to discourage others.

The report mentions that oversight is very important as well. Banks must have both regulation and supervision in order to keep banks on the straight and narrow. But while culture is impossible to completely regulate, it can be monitored and guided. In the end culture is about behavior and behavior cannot truly be corrected by regulations or legislation. Instead, regulations must be imbedded into the daily culture of banks, monitored, and transgressions dealt with immediately in order to change the American bank’s DNA.

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