PODCAST: ethics, banking & striking a balance

Banks need to find a way to strike the difficult balance between allowing customers the freedom to spend their money however they wish while still using their expertise to ensure their financial wellbeing, according to Dr Simon Longstaff, Executive Director of the Ethics Centre

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It’s a fascinating and complex subject – and one I spoke to Simon about in the wake of a recent meeting of ANZ’s Responsible Business Committee. You can listen to an edited podcast of the discussion below. 

"Some people get themselves into a position where they really cannot exercise free choice of the kind we'd recognise.” – Dr Longstaff

“There's a very strong feeling to respect people's ability to make their own decisions,” Simon said. “But there are some people who get themselves into a position where they really cannot exercise free choice of the kind we'd recognise as being important.”  

“They're either addicted to something sometimes or their financial circumstances are so restricted that the things they really need to be able to do were lost to them. So it's balancing that.”

The Ethics Centre is a not-for-profit organisation which offers counsel to organisations facing difficult ethical issues. 

It’s something we wrestle with at ANZ, particularly around the idea of people using our products in a way which may put them in harm’s way. We are very serious about being a responsible corporate citizen.

One issue we really struggle with is people using our credit card for gambling – which in itself may not be bad, until it begins to do harm.

“I think there's still some more work to be done,” Simon said “But the idea… of saying ‘well, let people have their choice but every now and then, let them hit the speed bump, if you like.”

“[Let them know there’s a] problem ahead and maybe just help them not get to that point where they are really compromised.”

There are no simple, black and white answers or fixed lines in these kinds of ethical dilemmas.

Our discussion also touched on issues around carbon emissions and corporate responsibility.

“These matters really do count in ways that people obviously care about and I think [people] want to do the right thing for its own sake,” Simon said. “And are then going to be proud to stand up in public and defend it even if it's not the most popular-position.” 

Listen to the podcast above to hear more on these fascinating and challenging themes.

Shayne Elliott is CEO at ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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