By Greer Quinn, Managing Director of agile public relations agency Forward Communications and has more than two decades experience working in media and public relations.
Royal Commission’s report triggers change
During 2017, the CEOs of the big four banks hauled themselves to Canberra for a series of public whippings on some really shocking instances of company wrongdoing.
Jump forward to now and only three of the bank bosses still have their feet under the desk.
Why? They’re most likely the ones who factored in the reputation risk of not doing so and listened to the counsel of their in-house communicators.
So where to from here?
The Royal Commission’s final report into Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services has certainly given the sector a shake-up.
Commissioner Kenneth Hayne’s final report contains 76 recommendations for the sector, but perhaps the biggest motivator is the threat of criminal prosecution.
Both Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) will be granted additional powers and resources to ensure adherence to regulations, creating a “litigate first” approach to cracking down on bad behaviours.
But what does this mean from a communications perspective?
More than words
Standard corporate speak and superficial lip service are not going to be enough to restore faith within the financial sector.
The report and subsequent media coverage are shining light on an industry in need of reform.
Of course, it’s going to take more than a few well crafted statements from CEOs to restore trust, let alone maintain industry competitiveness. As Commissioner Hayne said himself, “…wrongdoing is not denounced by issuing a media release”.
As class action armies are forming, it’s apparent the sector needs a culture reboot.
But change driven by communications alone is destined to fail.
A cultural shift at high speed
Ideally, cultural shifts are embedded into an ongoing corporate program. But in a situation like this, change needs to happen fast.
Boards are going to have to step up as the leaders in setting company culture. They need to work directly and deeply with their communication experts.
At each decision crossroad, boards need to ask themselves “would this pass the pub test”? Or, “if the survival of our company was dependent on a rating – similar to Uber or Airbnb – would we average four stars or above”?
Saying you didn’t know something was happening in your organisation just won’t cut it.
Culture will become the number one asset for those that survive and thrive. As the reflector of an organisation’s culture, here’s where internal communicators will play a key role.
Creating an engaging, respectful, ethical workplace culture is not the result of any one thing. It’s a combination of intent, process, and goodwill.
Restoring a culture of trust
According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, on erosion of trust in media, business, government and NGOs is resulting in voices of authority, including experts and CEOs, regaining credibility.
Activist CEOs who stand up for issues that matter – modern slavery, gender parity and marriage equality – are gaining more credibility.
It’s evidence that good news is generated by doing good things.
And it opens up opportunities for leaders in the banking sector to turn a negative into a positive.