An ethical approach to business is not just for Christmas

With Christmas a week away time to think about how we approach our customers. And as the saying goes, ‘an ethical approach to business is not just for Christmas’.

It may surprise you but there are some truly ethical organisations out there and I had the pleasure of dealing with one recently. In my discussions with them we sadly strayed into the topic of banking. Yes, even ethical organisations need bankers, especially ones with large cash balances they need to invest.


So what was the problem? It was a very simple one – the banker only understood greed and the organisation has a higher need. The organisation had set four simple guidelines for the bank to determine its investment profile. The guidelines were unbelievably simple, but what the banker failed to understand was the underlying values contained within these guidelines. I cannot blame him – after all, he only understands one thing.


Let me take an example of one of the guidelines – I have modified it slightly to protect all parties. Let us say that the organisation did not like alcohol consumption, so one of its guidelines was that the bank should not invest in any company producing alcoholic drinks. Simple is it not? So instead the bank invested in a company which manufactured equipment for the production of alcohol.


The organisation was left baffled. The banker went into defensive mode and said the guidelines were explicit, so they were not responsible. We knew that of course – bankers are never responsible and it is no use arguing as their lawyer squad would have a field day. Besides, legal action is not the kind of thing this organisation would resort to.


The solution to the problem is simple, even though the banker cannot see it coming. He is going to lose the customer. He will no doubt offer lunches, show lots of graphs showing his success and he will bring his boss’s boss to prove how important the customer is. But he is missing the crux of the matter. When dealing with a customer it is important to understand their value base. The guidelines were simple and anyone reading them should understand the underlying value system. Had the banker immediately owned his mistake, apologized, and fixed the problem I have no doubt the matter would have been resolved – even now the organisation is agonising over the decision.


The bank is losing one of the nicest possible customers you can have all because it can only understand one basic value – greed! Merry Christmas banker!

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