Deepening Ethical Compliance in Business


Early exposure of young minds to business ethics and compliance will help a great deal in engendering integrity in the market place, writes Peter Uzoho

Businesses thrive when players in the industry – investors, employers, employees, all concerned, hold on to the sanctity of trust, high level of integrity and professionalism in all dealings. The capital and financial market and the investment industry generally will only prosper and all parties happy when fundamental business values, corporate rules and procedures are upheld by all in all situations, irrespective of position.

However, when professional business ethics is lacking, breached or lost, mistrust sets in, loyalty is lost, investments are jeopardised, businesses are brought to abrupt end and the economy suffers. To this end, developing a platform that enables players in the investment market to always abide by good professional ethics as well as exposing young ones who are future players on issues relating to ethical compliance holds high hope for the industry.

It was against this backdrop that First Bank Nigeria Limited, bought into the Universities Ethics Challenge initiated by the Chartered Financial Analysts (CFA) Society Nigeria. CFA Institute is a global, not-for-profit association of investment professionals with a mission to lead the investment profession globally by promoting best ethical standard, educational and professional excellence for the benefit of society.

The institute’s educational programmes are designed to reach out to and develop next generation of investment professionals through hands-on training, mentorship and competitions. The universities Ethics Challenge is one of such educational outreach programmes and it is targeted at university students offering business courses.
The primary purpose of the competition is to expose them early to ethical realities in the investment industry as future players as well as assessing their sense of judgment on such critical issues.

In the competition, participating students are given two identical case studies which focus on ethical issues in the investment sector to do a review and identify where there are ethical violations and make recommendations for action.
The programme aligns perfectly with the bank’s corporate social responsibility which cuts across commitment to ethics and professional excellence and driving growth through building the capacity of Nigerians. First Bank offered to sponsor the programme for the next three years.

Recently, students of business-related faculties from five of Nigeria’s premier universities – University of Lagos, University of Ibadan, University of Nigeria Nsukka, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, and Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria took part in the final of the 2017 edition of the CFA Nigeria Ethics Challenge in Lagos.

2016/first edition winner, University of Lagos won the competition again and was presented with the trophy at the CFA Nigeria Award Dinner at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos. Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Okechukwu Enelamah and his Finance counterpart, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, joined the Group Executive, Treasury and Financial Institution, First Bank, Mr. Ini Ebong in presenting the trophy to the winning school.

Speaking to journalists on the essence of the bank’s partnership in the programme, Head, Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability, First Bank, Mr. Ismail Omamegbe, said the programme was in line with an aspect of the bank’s institutional values and purpose of existence. These, according to him were their belief in corporate governance, ethics and integrity. “And we do think that we have to demonstrate this as well; so it’s not just believing,” Omamegbe said.

He stressed that the bank had impacted positively on the society as part of the nation building. “But we do think that when you have to build institutions you have to build from the scratch, you have to be able to lay certain foundation. And we believe that the CFA Society and CFA Institute is a global organisation that focuses on integrity and ethics and research, and one of the ways to help them do that is to partner with them to get this done,” he noted.

Omamegbe added: “The second aspect is to actually demonstrate our commitment. We have a Chair at the University of Lagos on business ethics called the ‘Samuel Asabia Chair for Business Ethics’. It’s basically an aspect of the sustainability agenda. The key thing we believe in as an organisation is that ethics is very important and, if you don’t have integrity there is something wrong.

“And we believe that the university students for example are the young ones that are going to take over the institutions in the future. So how do you create a platform where they can inculcate these values – the value of ethics and the believe in ethics; and actually demonstrate it later in life? So we’re supporting CFA to be able to build the foundation with these young ones”, he noted.

However, President, CFA Society Nigeria, Mr. Banji Fehintola, said the ethics challenge was important to the association as according to him, the investment industry thrives on ethics.
“And what we are doing is to start talking to university students right from when they are still in school before they even come into the investment industry – to start inculcating in them the ethical principles that we think will make the industry to be sustainable in the long run. So that’s the overall objectives,” Fehintola said.
“The programme started last year with two universities as pioneer participants and was expanded this year, accommodating seven schools, and is projected to expand more in the coming years. “This year with the support of First Bank, we had seven schools participating. Last year we had two.”

He said one of his commitments as president of the association was to start addressing the issue by talking to those that are coming in in the future rather than the ones that are already in the system. “And that’s why we are doing this ethics challenge – to start getting these ones to understand ethics even before they come into the industry.
“And to be honest, sitting in the room watching them say some of these things mean that the future of the industry is very bright. We are building an industry that will be more ethical and more professional in future,” he said.
To ensure the outcome of the programme meets CFA standards, Fehintola

explained that Judges used in the competition were all CFA Chartered Holders. “And this year we got First Bank as a sponsor of the programme to nominate a judge who has joined the panel of judges and, we did that for two reasons.
“One, it’s also our own way of getting someone who is not a CFA Chartered member to also appreciate the CFA Standards that we are preaching to people. And the feedback I’ve gotten from her is that she has learnt so much from listening to these students. And even for her, it’s been a life changing experience being part of this competition.”

In his appreciation, Fehintola noted that First Bank had been extremely supportive of the association in realising its objectives. “When we preached this whole idea to the bank to support this ethic challenge they came and they exceeded our expectations. For instance, First Bank said to us we can partner with you not just monetarily, we can also offer you things like our training centre, we can offer you accommodation for the students, we can offer you all our facilities for you to use, which to me shows that the bank believes strongly in what we’re doing.
“They believe that ethical standards are very important not just for the banking sector but for the investment industry as a whole. We asked them for one year support and First Bank offered us three year support. So I really appreciate them for that,” he added.

Commenting on the assessment of the students’ performance at the competition, Chairman, Publicity Committee, CFA Society Nigeria, Mr. Ayokunle Ojo, pointed out that the students were able to identify a number of ethical challenges. He said these ranged from misconduct, not understanding the law and lack of adequate supervision.
He said issues of lack of integrity in the capital market as an adviser were spotted out by the participants. According to Ojo, as an adviser you are supposed to uphold the law and do the right thing in dealing with your clients. You are supposed to put the interest of your client above the interest of your employer and above your own personal interest.

“If young people are aware of the dilemma that we face as members of the capital market and if they understand in a clear way how to deal with those issues it then means that when they start participating either as employees or as captains of industries they will be able to make the right decisions. And if we’re all making the right decision then the financial industry and the capital market will improve and that would impact on the society at large”, He added.

Meanwhile, appreciating the impact of the programme, Faculty Adviser, University of Nigeria Nsukka CFA Ethics Challenge Contingent, Dr. Tony Orji, said the ethical challenge was a good way of encouraging the students to imbibe good professional ethics, noting that, it has given a lot of experience and exposure to them.
“It’s a good way of raising the students because the foundation of any building matters a lot,” Orji said. “These students have come and learnt about the professional ethics and conduct. In the near future they will be the investors, advisers and financial analysts.

“And, having learnt this good ethics, they are going to enshrine it into their professional conduct. Also, as a faculty adviser, I have learnt a lot. So, bringing my students here was not a waste at all. On this note, I commend CFA Society and First Bank for creating a platform where these young ones can be exposed early to ethical issues in the capital market”, Orji noted.

One of the participants and member of team UNILAG, Seyi Akindutire, said the programme was a learning point for him. He said: “I think I’m going somewhere from here; I’m going home from here with the best in my heart. Inculcating this ethical habits and conducts and internalising it is going to change our perspective about the industry and make us to be discipline as individuals in the finance industry.”

Also commenting, Bright Mgbemena of team UNN said featuring in the ethical challenge was phenomenal in his life as a potential player in the industry, saying the experience surpassed his expectation.
He said: “When I heard of the CFA Society ethic challenge I was thinking it was going to be a mere challenge not knowing it was going to be this outstanding. “The programme has really impacted on me and my fellow students. You know ethic is very important for the growth and sustainability of an organisation.

According to him, abiding by or contravening ethical rules of a company determines its survival in the industry. “Because you have to make investment decisions, recommending whether there will be a sale or a buy with the company’s stock. This is not something for the moment; it’s something we believe will take us to places.

“The organisers are looking at the future of the investment market and thinking about what to do to secure the market. So that’s why they shifted attention to us, the young ones that will one day come in as players in the industry. So I really commend CFA Society and First Bank for giving us this opportunity,” Mgbemena added.