According to the recent Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) Director Sentiment Index, 92% of directors are trying to improve culture in their organisation. They are doing this by looking at cultural indicators, communicating the ethical positions of their organisation, ensuring culture is an item on their boardroom agenda, building relationships with key employees to gather insights and interacting across the organisation. But is it enough?

The Financial Services Royal Commission has highlighted the need for more focus on core values. Despite all the words on corporate governance, risk frameworks, codes of conduct and whistle-blower policies, a tour of CBA’s website results in a blank when it comes to the core values apart from the statement “Commonwealth Bank is Committed to Behaviour That Reflects Our Values”. From the behaviours that have come to light, what might customers and the community interpret those values to be?

A Google search produced a CBA document “Our Commitments – Living our Vision and Values” attributed to former CEO Ian Narev that espouses integrity, accountability, collaboration, excellence and service as CBA values. There are values guidelines for team members (everyone) and team leaders specifically but nothing spelled out for senior leaders or executives. This document also calls on CBA staff to make a series of commitments including “I commit to upholding the guiding framework of our vision and values“ and “I commit to honesty”. How are some of the decision makers currently in the spotlight going on those?

But CBA is not alone. The same goes for a search on AMP’s website, no core values to be found. Buried in an Employee Code of Conduct flyer, their advocated values are professionalism, honesty & integrity, of the highest possible standard.
In a statement from AMP and the Royal Commission – Message to our Customers on their site, there is a short mention about reviewing processes, systems, governance and controls but nothing about living their core values or overhauling their culture.

The danger is that those tasked with “fixing things” still don’t see the link between values, behaviours and performance and they pay lip service to addressing this at the very top of the organisation. No matter how much effort goes into the operational side of the business, nothing will change unless they redesign and rebuild their cultural foundations and become a customer-centric, values-driven organisation.

As Lieutenant-General David Morrison stated when a major sex scandal rocked the Army and the nation a few years ago, “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept.” From a leadership perspective the example you set is that is the example that’s followed, which goes some way to explaining why much of this unethical behaviour has been able to fester at all levels within the financial services sector.

For most people the safety and security of their financial resources is paramount. Banking, insurance, financial planning and superannuation offerings are commodities. Who you are and what you stand for as an individual and an organisation is now even more important when it comes to choosing who to trust with your finances and it opens up a wealth of opportunities for competitors to get it right.

Linley Watson is CEO of Peak Performance International ( Email: