Survey shows bankers more concerned with short-term goals than social responsibility
on 18/09/2012 12:20:34
In a global survey conducted for Society, shareholders and self-interest: Accountability of business leaders in financial services, an EIU report sponsored by SAS, an overwhelming majority (84%) of C-level banking and insurance executives say meeting short-term performance targets is their main priority.
A smaller proportion (62%) believe that being socially responsible is also important.
The C-suite in finance considers itself most accountable to the board (90%), followed by regulators (79%) and investors (74%).
Only 54% of finance leaders see themselves as accountable to society.
According to the survey, top managers in finance do not think their remuneration is excessive, and public criticism is having little impact on pay policies.
Nearly two-thirds (65%) of senior finance executives surveyed believe they are simply paid what they are worth.
Only a minority of them (29%) think that factors such as a tarnished public image or investor criticism have a greater influence on C-level remuneration today.
Nonetheless, the high level of public scrutiny since the crisis has had a perceptible impact at the top of the sector.
Nearly three-quarters (73%) of the executives in the survey say that their companies are making conscious efforts to improve the transparency and accuracy of the information they share with external stakeholders.
Just under two-thirds (65%) also say that they encourage stakeholders to ask questions and scrutinise their performance.
Among those interviewed for this report are Royal Bank of Scotland chairman Philip Hampton and ING Bank Vice-Chairman Koos Timmermans.
"There are both worrying and hopeful signs that the financial services sector has learnt its lessons from the crash," says Abhik Sen, editor of the report.
"By and large the sector still does not consider itself very accountable to somewhat nebulous stakeholders such as society. On the other hand, there seems to be a growing awareness at the C-level that the crisis has changed the rules of the game forever."
The survey also found that investment banking is becoming more sensitive to public perception, but accountability to society is still not a top priority.
Over one-half (53%) of respondents from investment banking agree that factors such as public opinion have more of an influence on risk appetite and pay.
However, only 34% see themselves as highly accountable to society at large, compared to nearly 70% of retail or commercial bankers who do.
Attitudes to accountability and risk management vary markedly between finance CEOs and CFOs. Only 16% of banking and insurance CEOs - compared to 33% of CFOs - think business leaders should be more accountable to society in general.
When asked what kind of impact public opinion is having on the "willingness of C-level executives to take responsibility for failure or misdemeanours", only 13% of CEOs said that it was having more influence than a few years ago, compared to 41% of CFOs who said the same.