TTF Blog: 16 November 2020

Building an international league for ethical leaders

by Alex Varley-Winter, TTF’s Head of Media Relations & Investigative Reporting

The overwhelming need for change in financial services is not discussed as often as it ought to be, so let’s start with  a brief recap:

  • U.S.-based analysts at Violation Tracker have found that since the year 2000, the financial services industry in the United States has paid out $325,206,110,617  in fines for violations. Their database reveals what appears to be a high degree of recidivism in the industry. Sometimes, corporations are caught breaking the law, pay what might appear to be astronomical fines, but later go on to repeat the same offenses. What’s going wrong?
  • This year, in addition to a global pandemic, wildfires have raged and climate breakdown is rightly high on governments’ agenda. Yet big banks’ support for the fossil fuel industry was revealed by a coalition of environmental NGOs to have increased this year, and every year since the Paris Agreement of December 2015, with $2.7 trillion in investment in fossil fuels from some of the world’s biggest banks since 2016.

A growing mismatch between profit, value and indeed survival is globally evident. Despite this, it can still be lonely at the top for financial services leaders who want to effect change for the better.

Transparency Task Force is publishing a series of video interviews with ethical financial services leaders – thankfully, a growing group of influential people. I’m featuring a couple of them here.

We are also creating an international league for ethical business leaders in the financial services space. I hope that the discussions below give a closer idea of what is driving that project.

Jason Hsu on the need for courage and realism

Jason Hsu is CIO of a global investment management group and spoke at a Symposium we ran last week. He explained that he has been creating a ‘wealth experiment’ in London around purposeful leadership. Why?

“Let me share a story with you”, he said, “I once hired a senior executive who was mentoring one of our younger folks.” He watched the pair discussing ‘the fact that bankers are paid … half a million to start, probably well over a million if you do well. And teachers and engineers and others are paid fractions of that.’

The senior executive then surprised Hsu when he then told the mentee his interpretation of that fact: “‘we need more bankers, they create more value for society’.”

“That was insanely alarming to me. I thought to myself – ‘at what point did we lose the ability to have some common sense and look at the prices that the market reveals and say “that’s just wrong”? When did we lose sight, between price and value?’ Value is what we create, price is what we extract.”

If you are paid a ‘princely sum’ for doing ‘almost nothing’, Hsu added, why would you not consider the possibility that “the market isn’t working, there’s a bubble.”

Sleeping giants & courageous investors

Hsu reflects: “For a lot of people leadership is about the power, the control to get things done, and I think for a group of us here it’s about a lot more.

“The people at the very top set the tone for an organisation.  Why is that important? These days whenever we see a major blow-up, inevitably you find the leader at the very top – different situations, different problems. Almost always they repeat the same – ‘I didn’t know.’

“You can’t wake up someone who’s pretending to sleep … If you don’t want to know, no mounting knowledge at your disposal can change the ‘not wanting to know’. … How do we get people to want to know?”

“So we have to start with the ‘why’. Why does our industry exist, what do we do? Can we start with people who care”.

“A lot of people today are involved in E.S.G. investing. The way I think about E.S.G. investing is that we need courageous investors. Because without courageous investors backing courageous executives, you can’t answer the question ‘are we willing to grow slower’?”

You can see a full video interview between Transparency Task Force’s Andy Agathangelou, the Centre For Inspired Leadership’s Deborah Henderson, and Jason Hsu here.

Deborah Henderson on how fear does not work in finance

“What are the circumstances going on in the world today that might help us to engage in how a shift in financial services might happen?”

The question is posed by Deborah Henderson, Director of the Centre for Inspired Leadership. She has been conducting TTF’s series of interviews with ethical financial services leaders, towards our goal of growing an international network of support for their work.

Henderson has sensed for decades that change was needed but interestingly, she comes at this from the perspective of guarding the wellbeing of people working within the sector, as well as acting for society as a whole.

Core to that, she has looked at the impact of fear in driving behaviour. At a Symposium we ran last week she recalled one feature of her career in investment banking: “Back in the eighties and nineties, I was told as I was hiring people, ‘Just remember Debbie, we hire insecure over-achievers. And we make sure we keep them that way.'”

“If that’s still part of the sector — and this was investment banking — then the method of the hiring is to hire people who are hungry for those incentives, and you perpetuate more of the same. Focus on fear-driven values is going to give us exactly that.” – more fear.

One of the many problems with fear, is the way in which it stifles creativity. Henderson explains: “The profile I saw time, and time, and time again for groups in financial services … is either on the fight, or the flight, or the fold, of modalities, and very little or not as much on their creative competencies. … This actually delivers lower performance. Our money system can sometimes have people be blind to this.”

The behaviour she then saw emerging in those institutions was “autocratic, arrogant, critical, distant.”

If you would like to be involved in ours and Henderson’s project, to support ethical leadership, please get in touch.

Press Timeline of relevant articles:

16 Nov 2020 – Bank of England ‘failing’ on climate change reform by Philip Aldrick for the Times

16 Nov 2020 – Fed moves closer to joining global peers in climate-change fight by Ann Saphir for Reuters

09 Nov 2020Ombudsman inundated with complaints about loans by Katherine Griffiths for the Times

09 Nov 2020Spike in personal pension cases at ombudsman by Rachel Mortimer for FT Adviser

09 Nov 2020 – Regulator: Climate risk ‘looms even larger’ than pandemic by Avery Ellfeldt for ClimateWire (U.S.)

08 Nov 2020How financial services watchdog has reacted to UK consumer worries in Covid by Hilary Osborne for Guardian

08 Nov 2020Five predictions for banking regulation in a Biden presidency by Jon Hill for Law 360

05 Nov 2020Martin Lewis warns of ‘epidemic of scams’ after ICU nurse loses £8,000 by Scott Edwards for Wales Online

05 Nov 2020FCA bans adviser trio jailed for sex offences by Rachel Mortimer for FT Adviser

03 Nov 2020 – ‘We haven’t received a penny’: Business interruption insurance row intensifies as owners fear payout delays, by Elizabeth Anderson for iNews

03 Nov 2020Aviva’s shares fiasco highlights weakness of the city watchdog by Patrick Hosking for the Times

02 Nov 2020Banks have done little to help the country through the pandemic, so why is the government rewarding them? by Simon Youel for the Independent

29 Oct 2020 – Calls to sack Malta financial regulator CEO by Cristian Angeloni for International Adviser

27 Oct 2020U.S. group urges Biden to use financial regulation to control climate change by Valerie Volcovici for Reuters

27 Oct 2020 ‘Impact startups’ continue to raise funding during the pandemic despite difficulties faced by the wider tech startup sector by Sebastian Klovig Skelton for Computer Weekly

26 Oct 2020 – Why there must be thorough probe of claims made by Bank Signature Forgery Campaign – Greg Wright  for the Yorkshire Post

26 Oct 2020 –  Critics demand action over ‘flawed’ British Banking Resolution Service by James Hurley for the Times

24 Oct 2020Banks look to debt collectors to recover bounce back loans by Nicholas Megaw, Stephen Morris and Daniel Thomas for the FT

23 Oct 2020Bank Signature Forgery (film) by Nicholas Wilson for Corruption UK

22 Oct 2020 – UK fraud agency suffers string of senior departures by Kate Beioley for the FT

22 Oct 2020 HSBC froze £1.5bn of customers’ cash in ‘dormant accounts’ – report by Kalyeena Makortoff & Juliette Garside for the Guardian

22 Oct 2020Work harder to find fraud, watchdog tells auditors by James Hurley for the Times

17 Oct 2020 – MPs pursue claims bank signatures were faked on court papers by Rupert Jones for the Guardian

16 Oct 2020 We need universal digital ad transparency now by Laura Edelson, Erika Franklin Fowler and Jason Chuang for TechCrunch

15 Oct 2020 – Rising COVID-19 Rates Send NatWest Misselling Trial To Video by Bonnie Eslinger for Law 360

15 Oct 2020 – MPs Push Agencies to Act on Forged Signature Claims by Law360

13 Oct 2020 –  Mark Carney says banks should link executive pay to Paris climate goals by Kalyeena Makortoff for the Guardian

12 Oct 2020 ‘It is time to reboot the competition regime for the modern, digital age’ by David Wighton, The Times

12 Oct 2020 Gina Miller blasts FCA complaints scheme changes ‘unfair, immoral and illegal’ by Cristian Angeloni for Portfolio Adviser

12 Oct 2020MPs call for input on Pension Schemes Bill by James Phillips for Professional Pensions

10 Oct 2020 Give pension trustees power to fight scammers, say MPs by Kenza Bryan for the Times

08 Oct 2020  – Freedom to transfer pensions should be stripped where scams are suspected, industry experts urge by Jessica Beard for the Telegraph

08 Oct 2020 – Planned pensions shake-up passes first Commons hurdle by Law 360

08 Oct 2020 – WPC chairman says transfer rules ‘must be changed’ by Amy Austin for FT Adviser

07 Oct 2020 – Tech giants share blame for pension scams, MPs told by Law 360

06 Oct 2020 – FCA opens 85 cases over pension scam concerns by Amy Austin for FT Adviser

03 Oct 2020 – Record number of savers fall victim to investment fraud as scam adverts stay on Google by Andrew Ellson for The Times

02 Oct 2020A New Theory of Soil by Alex Varley-Winter for SustainAct

 
 
 
28 Sep 2020 – PM urged to show leadership in fight against scams by Amy Austin for FT Adviser
 
28 Sep 2020The 100 Whistleblowers who changed Wall Street by Stephen M. Kohn and Mary Jane Wilmoth for National Law Review
 
28 Sep 2020TTF calls for govt leadership on pension scams following meeting with PM by Sophie Smith for Pensions Age
 
 
26 Sep 2020 – £60m revamp for Action Fraud hotline that failed victims by Martin Beckford for The Sunday Times
 
25 Sep 2020 – FCA labels Google’s scam advert efforts ‘deeply frustrating’ by Rachel Mortimer for FT Adviser
 
23 Sep 2020 – Bank Forgery Campaign (video) by Andy Verity for BBC
 
 
20 Sep 2020 – Explore the FinCEN Files Data and Suspicious activity reports, explained by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ); Fergus Shiel and Ben Hallman
 
21 Sep 2020 Flood of complaints expected over Covid-19 UK business loans, by Kalyeena Makortoff for the Guardian
 
 
 
16 Sep 2020 – Regulators Accused of Ignoring Scam Warnings by Jack Gray for Pensions Age
 
16 Sep 2020Tougher clampdown on pension scams is needed, MPs told by Vicky Shaw for Belfast Telegraph
 
 
11 Sep 2020 – ‘Delay changes to Watchdog Complaints Scheme’ by James Hurley for The Times
 
 
03 Sep 2020Regulators have not yet got to grips with how to close down crooks, warns TTF  by Hope William-Smith for Professional Pensions
 

24 Aug 2020Financial Conduct Authority rushes to minimise compensation for its failings by James Hurley for The Times

04 Aug 2020Have your say: Will the WPC’s inquiry into the impact of pension freedoms be too overshadowed by Covid-19 impacts? by Professional Pensions

03 Aug 2020 – ‘“I’m 39, have lost my job and am in debt – can I unlock my £18k pension?” … DON’T do it!’‘ by Steve Webb for This is Money

01 Aug 2020‘I lost £2.3m after I was conned into transferring my pension’ by Jessica Beard for the Telegraph

31 Jul 2020 ‘Common sense’ prevails as pension freedom withdrawals fall 17% — But drop is expected to be ‘a short-term blip’ by Robbie Lawther for International Adviser

31 Jul 2020HMRC figures show plunging pension freedom withdrawals by Hope William-Smith for Professional Adviser

28 Jul 2020MPs launch inquiry into pension scams  by Tom Kelly for Daily MailUK Pension Scams Under Scrutiny After 2015 Relaxation in Rules by Reuters & MPs launch wide-ranging pension scams probe by Justin Cash for MoneyMarketing

24 Jul 2020 – US business groups seek steps to stamp out online fraud by Leonie Barrie for Just Style

22 Jul 2020Pension scams increase amid lockdown by Sophie Smith for Pensions Age & Missed Opportunity to Use Victims in Scam Work by Amy Austin for FT Adviser

21 Jul 2020  Londongrad Calling: Is Europe’s Laundromat the ‘New Normal’? by Mark Conrad

20 Jul 2020 Campaigners Aim to Create Pension Scam Database by Michael Klimes & Government eyes unauthorised firms by Justin Cash for MoneyMarketing

17 Jul 2020 – Year ‘dominated’ by FCA shortcomings as 205 complaints made,  by Rachel Mortimer for FT Adviser

29 Jun 2020 – MPs Pushed to Launch Pension Scam Inquiry by Amy Austin for FT Adviser & Lawmakers Urged To Open Inquiry Into Pension Scams by Martin Croucher for Law 360

14 May 2020 – Under Rising Pressure on Climate, JP Morgan Rejects Shareholders’ Calls to Disclose Carbon Footprint by Alex Varley-WInter for DeSmog

11 May 2020 – FCA urged to build public trust in independent reviews by Rachel Mortimer for FT Adviser

30 Apr 2020 – FCA was warned three years ago about mini-bond firm Blackmore Bond, which collapsed with £45m of savers’ money by Ben Chapman for the Independent

15 Apr 2020 – Met police lose two thirds of finance officers as fraud soars by Ben Ellery for the Times

25 Mar 2020 – Care Home Wants NatWest Docs in Misselling Fight by Law360

20 Mar 2020 – Connaught review delayed as Covid-19 concerns loom by Rachel Mortimer in FT Adviser

07 Jan 2020It’s time to keep your pensions promise, Boris! The PM pledged to help these victims of a huge scam FOUR years ago – and they’re still waiting by Tom Kelly for the Daily Mail.

29 Dec 2019‘Lambs to the slaughter – tens of thousands of savers have lost up to £10billion in rogue pensions schemes sanctioned by the government… and now the taxman is threatening VICTIMS with fines’, by Tom Kelly for the Daily Mail

15 Aug 2019Victims hit by Connaught’s collapse blast City watchdog for ‘whitewashing’ independent review by Lucy White for Daily Mail

05 Jul 2019 Government-owned bank ‘forging signatures’ in repossession cases by Andy Verity for BBC

18 Jun 2019“I came home to find my house had been stolen!” by Angela Ellis-Jones for the Daily Mail

20 Jun 2019 – FCA orders review of its handling of Connaught collapse by Rachel Mortimer for FT Adviser

29 Mar 2019MPs call for inquiry into alleged forgery of signatures by Andy Verity for BBC

15 Feb 2017 – RBS accused of fraud & forgery by customers and ex-employee by Andrew Hosken for The World Tonight BBC Radio 4

23 Sep 2016Which? makes scams super-complaint by Adam French for Which?