Tone from the top has been a buzz phrase for a while now. The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority offered a neat definition for the concept back in 2013 –¬ ‘creating a culture where everyone has ownership and responsibility for doing the right thing, because it is the right thing to do’. Others have been less elegant, summing it up as ‘the fish rots from the head’. Quite.
This concept of creating ‘a do the right thing’ culture is one that applies all business sectors, not just financial services, and so the resignation of Thomas Piquemal, EDF Group’s chief financial officer earlier this month caught my attention. Reports suggest that Mr Piquemal stepped down because he was concerned about the impact on EDF’s finances of taking on the multi-billion pound UK nuclear power project at Hinkley Point C.
Following his departure, EDF issued a brief statement regretting the haste of his departure and saying it was seeking to invest in two reactors at Hinkley Point ‘under the best possible financial conditions for the Group, with the objective of making a final investment decision in the near future’.
No doubt we will know more about the circumstances of Mr Piquemal’s resignation in the fullness of time. But the case led Nick Butler, former BP executive and No 10 adviser, and now visiting professor at the Policy Institute at King’s College London, to comment that he could not recall the last time a major company’s CFO had quit over a policy matter. Looking back over my own career, I cannot think of a single person I have known who resigned over policy or principle, so I am quite impressed by Mr Piquemal’s stance.
While there is a world of difference between the scenario at EDF and the corporate scandals of the past, such as Enron and Parmalat, which have helped to drive the tone from the top agenda, the issue of ethics spans both.
In the governance, risk and compliance agenda, ethics is becoming increasingly significant; more and more, customers want to know the businesses they deal with don’t just tick the compliance boxes but also work in an ethical way, so that they can trust and have real confidence in them.
It’s an issue we explore in the ICA Diploma in Governance, Risk and Compliance, part of a wide range of qualifications we offer in anti money laundering, compliance and financial crime prevention. If you’re interested in learning with us, you can see all our course here.
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