By Don Tapscott
The view expressed here are his own.
Protesters set up the “Occupy Wall Street” base camp in New York a month ago because the location epitomizes the economic forces that control the U.S. and global economies. As one sign read: “This is not a recession. It’s a robbery.” To many it feels like just that. The financial services industry is in desperate need of reform. Many bankers have behaved as secretive corporate titans serving only their own interests, and insist the devastating consequences are not their fault. They are failing to fulfill their obligations to society—in some cases, even to shareholders–and a growing number of critics view the day-to-day behavior of the financial services industry as unacceptable. If the industry doesn’t initiate reform from within then it will eventually have more extreme reform imposed from outside.
In 2008, the routine gambles of Wall Street almost brought down global capitalism and yet, so far, nothing fundamentally has changed. Restoring long-term confidence in the financial services industry requires more than individual banks changing their behavior or even governments intervening with new rules. The industry needs a new modus operandi, where all of the key players (banks, insurers, investment brokers, rating agencies and regulators) adopt the three facets of collaboration: integrity, transparency, and embracing the commons.
Integrity. Trust is the expectation that the other party will act with integrity – be honest, considerate, and abide by its commitments. To re-establish trust, the financial services industry needs to have integrity as part of its DNA. But the cavalier manner in which many banking executives violated integrity was stunning. For example they sold sub-prime mortgages to people who could never make the payments; bundled them into securities and convinced rating agencies to classify them as AAA, and insurance companies to insure them. They then sold these to unsuspecting investors. They violated all the values of Integrity. Everyone in the process suffered and the global economy was sent into a tailspin.
The 2008 meltdown and the Euro crises we face today illustrate how interconnected our world has become. Organizations must be much more aware of what is going on around them. It’s important to know the behavior of others and the potential impacts of the actions of distant third parties. If there is anything Wall Street should have learned from the mess they created it was that business cannot succeed in a world that is failing.
In everything from motivating employees, negotiating with partners, disclosing financial information, or explaining the environmental impacts of a new factory, companies and other organizations must tell the truth, be considerate of the interests of others, and be willing to be held accountable for delivering against their commitments.