My ethics are better than yours
In these corona times I work just as hard as before. Regretfully we have less assignments, but as a team we prepare for better times. Especially not traveling results in extra time in which I am finally able to structurally read Het Financieele Dagblad (the Dutch Financial Times) and contemplate what is happening and what people have to say. Inspired by a column of Matthijs Bouman I connected a number of articles. Bouman writes about “foute bedrijven” (wrong companies). People condemn Booking.com for asking for government support because they made a huge profit and bought their own shares and still ask for support. So, Bouman states, we should punish their employees. The same way we should punish companies that would not survive anyways, supermarkets that sell wrong products or aviation companies that pollute the air. I like the way he shows us how arbitrary our thinking is.
So what do you think about the following?
- Flow Traders had an excellent quarter because they thrive on market volatility;
- FX traders of Citibank, BoA and Goldman recently made huge profits.
Is their business model legit? Or are they the proverbial lawyers that chase the ambulance? At the end of the day I make a living finding staff for companies. Also death, sickness and crisis results in searches for new treasurers and I do not lose sleep over picking up these assignments. Demand and supply, simple as that.
We constantly see how the banking industry struggles with what is good and what is right. A string of scandals over the last years led to new legislation and a lot of work in solving derivatives contracts between banks and their clients (UHK). A new support industry rose and fell. Currently a new one is being built to fight money laundering and other dubious transactions, that will be a KYC industry. Bankers already knew what is wrong and ignored the rules so new control mechanisms had to be build. The one thing I learn from this is that external legislation is not a way to improve morality of bankers. Is the solution hidden in their reward system or their upbringing?
For the opponents of tax evasion, a topic that is in the heart of business ethics, there is good news. The number of entities in The Netherlands that are founded for this purpose is quickly getting smaller. This after extensive public discussion and potential policy changes. I like to think that the powers that be started thinking about the purpose of their companies and these entities, and decided that there are better ways. And not solely money driven, but also because it is the better way. I prefer being hopeful & positive over being cynical.
Listening skills and wanting to compete in the championship of ethics are rarely combined in one person. Being sure and loud regretfully often are. I will make a reminder to follow up on this blog in five years or so.
Pieter de Kiewit