Big 4 partner sparks debate on culture and conduct

A big four firm partner engaged with members of the finance profession to debate whether conduct is a function of culture or an outcome within professional services firms.

At the Thomson Reuters Australian Regulatory Summit earlier this week, EY partner Roberto Fitzgerald moderated a panel discussion on culture in Australian firms. 

Mr Fitzgerald likened culture and conduct to a “chicken and egg situation”

“Is conduct a function of culture or is it an outcome? What drives which? And at the moment, certainly on the misconduct side, if there's any evidence of misconduct we don't instantly leap to controls or process or market forces, we leap to ‘it must've been about culture’.”

Flexigroup Limited group chief risk officer Karl Turner argued that conduct is created by the culture of an organisation.

“To me I think that culture really goes to the value of the organisation, what does it stand for,” Mr Turner said.

“To me, the values underpin the culture, then the output of those values in essence get manifested through conduct either good or bad.”

Thomson Reuters senior regulatory intelligence expert Niall Coburn said he believes that conduct comes under the wider umbrella of culture.

“I think what the question relates to is you've got this culture, and then the subset of that is actually conduct risk, so you look at risk culture as being the overarching aspect for the organisation, then conduct risk looks at how you conduct your business inside of that,” Mr Coburn said.

“So they're two terms which the industry is starting to use, and they are confusing, but the thing that you have to remember, is that conduct risk, I believe, comes under the ambit of risk culture overall.”

The Banking and Finance Oath director Clare Payne highlighted that while conduct is becoming easier to measure, culture still varies immensely.

“Obviously they're part and parcel, but I think with conduct we've gone so much further in terms of the measurements of it and being able to get a better grip on the conduct issues, but with culture there's still really big differences in how people measure culture,” she said.

 

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