Practical insights for compliance and ethics professionals and commentary on the intersection of compliance and culture.

The changing nature of, and expectations for, trust

Discussions of trust and honesty are popping up everywhere in the public discourse. From disputes over what constitutes “fake news” to discussions involving “alternative facts,” the current culture is obsessed with the struggle to determine what’s really real. Who can be believed, and why? How does anyone know for sure? The objective of establishing trust in an environment where the goalpost of the truth seems to be constantly in motion is challenging and even frustrating. However, in such an atmosphere, a flight to quality for integrity in ethical character and decision-making is needed more than ever.

  • The ubiquity of the internet makes it a powerful force in the overall assessment of trust in society. Concerns about security and privacy are a constant in the remote digital interactions of the internet, where much can be done and said anonymously. Advancements in technology promise to embed the internet and its connections further into the daily experiences of individuals and organizations. But does the internet hurt or help trust? At the very least, it seems that the nature of trust will be seen as evermore fluid, as the internet empowers the world yet suffers from countless security insufficiencies that set credibility and honesty on edge:  The Fate of Online Trust in the Next Decade
  • Compliance programs that are overly rules-based, focusing on preventing behavior defined as criminal or illegal and fine-tuned by enforcement standards, may prove inadequate for restoring trust in institutions. The public does not want to see that unethical behavior is only a problem if it involves breaking an existing rule or law. Indeed, a huge part of the compliance discipline is the aspirational aspect, where the controls seek to address the discrepancy that can exist between what is legal and what an organization wants to consider acceptable. Rather than going heavy on the rules-based approach, a values-based approach can be much more meaningful, giving the reassurance that the compliance program seeks to identify root causes and inspire ethical conduct, rather than just enforce rules and protect management from liability:  ‘Criminalized’ compliance may backfire in quest for better Wall Street cultures
  • Ten years on from the start of the global financial crisis in 2008, many observers are left underwhelmed by assessing the true change that has happened in its aftermath. Fundamental shifts in conduct and business practices were needed to truly reform the financial services sector and make the supervisory efforts over it effective. A major challenge in the recovery from the crisis was how to make the system more resilient, to withstand another crisis the same as or worse than before. However, perhaps more important was the effort to restore public trust in the industry, which could only be accomplished by taking a deep dive into the causes of the crisis and doing hard work across many organizations to address the reasons why and why not forever. While the regulators have made lots of new rules, and banks have been publicly shamed and put through the rigors of new testing and requirements that are seemingly without end, the markets don’t seem to trust that anything has really changed for the better – and maybe the public shouldn’t believe it either:  Markets Don’t Trust Banks, and They’re Right
  • So how to restore that public trust which has been violated and lost? Stronger governance is the first step, to weed out the problems which still exist and will take time to address effectively, like corruption, cybersecurity, and differences in reporting regimes. Injecting clarity into a truly integrated system which is more consistent and allows for comprehensive monitoring will help also to let the public know that supervisors are looking in the right places. These system overhauls and others should help to create markets and networks which are more likely to foster and support financial stability in the future:  Ten Powerful Actions To Restore Public Trust And Confidence In The Global Economy
  • As the advancements of technology constantly outpace regulatory and legal frameworks intended to control them, what implications do biometrics innovations have for trust? Data privacy concerns prevent many people from engaging in newer technologies, but what will happen when traditional authentication of identity is no longer available? Social media, AI such as facial recognition, and other advanced means of identification and verification are on their way, and all the problems of inclusion, access, and security that challenge their trustworthiness are coming with them:  The evolution of identity: trust, inclusivity, biometrics and beyond

Organizations must grapple with the fluid nature of trust and the expectations around it, in order to have any hope of inspiring trust and faith as cultural norms both inside and outside the office.

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