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Skip Navigation LinksCEO-Update-The-more-things-change-the-more-they-stay-the-same CEO Update: The more things change the more they stay the same

CEO Update: The more things change the more they stay the same
Mathew Browning

2019 has begun with a bang as we delved into the final report of the banking inquiry and progressed some changes that will equip us well for the domestic and global challenges that lie ahead. 

The Hayne report - a good first step or a missed opportunity? 

We have long campaigned for greater scrutiny of lending practices across the financial services industry and have been shining a light on its mistreatment of vulnerable customers (see the Ethical Corner article on page four). Being a financial services provider ourselves, we have drawn attention to how the major players have been able to routinely deceive both the regulators and their own customers with impunity. So the anticipation with which we pored over Commissioner Hayne’s final report quickly turned to disappointment as it became clear that he had passed up a unique opportunity to recommend a serious overhaul of the industry. Clearly, investors also expected more severe sanctions as the ‘big four’ banks’ share prices jumped an average of 5.2 per cent on the day the report was released. Despite the handful of board and management resignations this was hardly the punishment that many Australians—particularly the victims of the systemic misconduct—wanted to see.

It will be fascinating, though possibly painful to those seeking swift and meaningful change, to see how many (or how few) of the 76 recommendations actually end up being implemented and how long it takes. In the run-up to a May election, the government and Labor have been battling it out to appear to be coming down harder on the banks. At the time of writing, the government has pledged to ‘act on’ all 76, but ‘acting on’ is not the same as ‘accepting’. Having shown remarkable reluctance to initiate the inquiry in the first place, they have little time to enact legislation and are now angling to leave the bulk of the recommendations requiring legislation until after the vote. We will see in the longer term whether this royal commission is the catalyst for a cultural change in the financial services industry that many hoped for. What is clear though is that from now on customers will demand much higher ethical standards and transparency of the businesses whose ostensible aim is to help them get the best from their money. This will be to the competitive advantage of the organisations that ‘walk the talk’ when important ethical issues are at stake. 

New name, same values 

We are putting the finishing touches to the rebranding project I mentioned in the last issue. The changeover to the new name, logo and website will go live in April but I wanted you to hear it here first—so, with a huge thank you to our wonderful team working on the project, it gives me great pleasure to introduce our new name: ‘U Ethical’! ‘U Ethical’ was carefully chosen as a contemporary statement of our ethical heritage from the Uniting Church while also placing our values boldly front and centre. With ambitious targets to increase our surplus, it is important that prospective investors instantly understand what sets us apart from other investment managers. We have been the ‘quiet achiever’ of the ethical investment sector for three decades. However, the time has come for us to lead by example in demonstrating that investing with purpose is not only profitable, but in fact is essential for tackling today’s social and environmental challenges. 

As always, I encourage you to get in touch via the contact us link on the top of the page​​.