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Should bankers swear an oath to god?

Posted on 17/03/2014
Dr Laura J. Spence

Laura Spence, Professor of Business Ethics at the School of Management, Royal Holloway, University of London, was interviewed by CNBC for her views on the Dutch Banking Code.

In 2015, Dutch bank employees will have to swear an oath to promise that they will perform their duties with integrity. The oath must be adhered to by every one of the Netherlands' 90,000 bank employees.

Richard Lambert, Head of a review into banking standards in the U.K., rejected the need for an oath. He has called for standards of behaviour and competence in the banking industry to be raised through an independent body.

In the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008, the Dutch Banking Association (NVB) published the Banking Code. However, whilst banks may have abided by the code, no one outside the banking industry was aware of it.

Laura said the Dutch response was an attempt to make the banking profession similar to medicine and its Hippocratic oath. "They are really trying to professionalize the industry and bring the kind of levels of integrity, and expectation around integrity, in line with other of the more established professions," she told CNBC.com.

Laura said the need for the Dutch to introduce an oath, compared to the British response of an independent body, was down to cultural differences. 

"On the Dutch banking association's web page, it highlights the social role of banks and the need to make sure their actions are in line with society's expectations," she said.

Regarding the Dutch model, she said "It looks like an honest attempt to try to change the culture, whether it works is unclear." We won't know how the code will work until we have seen how it responds to people who violate the oath.



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