September 25, 2020

UCCI seminar talks financial integrity

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Simon Culhane, Intergrity at Work facilitator

‘Integrity at Work’ was the subject for a recent workshop held at the University College of the Cayman Islands.

The seminar focused on integrity issues within the financial industry and was facilitated by Mr. Simon Culhane, Chief Executive Officer of the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI).

Introducing the topic, Mr. Culhane said, “Openness honesty, transparency and fairness, those are pretty good things to have in your mind if someone says, ‘What is integrity?’”

The session kicked off with a look at the factors that cause a financial jurisdiction location to be considered successful. Those factors included: Availability of skilled personnel, regulatory environment, access to customers, and a fair and just business environment.

The issue of integrity was crucial, Mr. Culhane said, not just to the individual bank or finance company, but also to the whole of the financial industry.

Mr. Cuhane illustrated the first of these assertions by reference to a real-life example of a questionable practice, which brought short-term gains, but greater long-term losses:

“Seven or eight years ago Citibank had a group of people who sold and sold government bonds until just before the gong went at the end of the day, and then they brought them all back.

“It made that particular group in the firm five or six million pounds – they were delighted…but it cost Citibank in the end eight billion dollars to fix, because that (practice) was considered to be absolutely unfair, unreasonable and misleading …so for them, that short term gain was a big long term loss,” he said.

Workshop participants included UCCI President, Mr. Roy Bodden (right)

“Is there any empirical evidence that says the industry loses if one or two people are bad?” Mr. Cuhane asked, before going on to describe the events that lead to the ‘economic meltdown,’ beginning with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers.

Mr. Culhane then asked the seminar participants to respond to several different hypothetical dilemmas. Each participant was invited to give an answer relating to each scenario by using the special electronic voting device provided at each desk.

The first dilemma involved a junior member of a team in an established financial company who had asked for permission to take time off work to go to a meal, and a football match, in response to an invitation from a client.

The four options were: “Option A – Yes, and I will let my boss know,”  “Option B – Yes but he will need to take a day as holiday from his annual allowance,”  “Option C- No but I or someone from the firm will go instead,” and “Option D – No.”

The Integrity at Work workshop drew participants from managerial positions within Cayman’s financial industry

After voting, the participants were then invited to discuss the criteria used for their decision. Some of the suggested considerations were: “Where is the line between acceptable hospitality and bribery?” and, “How would this be perceived by key stakeholders?”

Mr. Culhane concluded the seminar by saying: “Integrity and trust are important and necessary components for firms operating in global centres; the lack of integrity has a real cost to all in the industry; and, Integrity needs to be part of a firm’s culture.”

Mr. Culhane finished by quoting the motto of the London Stock Exchange: “Dictum meum pactum – my word is my bond.”

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