Mr. Julian Opuni — MD, Fidelity Bank Ghana
The Managing Director of Fidelity Bank Ghana, Mr. Julian Opuni, has said that all stakeholders in the banking industry are committed to upholding the new Banking Code of Ethics which seeks to sanitise the banking industry and bring back the lost confidence in the sector.
He said all stakeholders within the industry had categorically pledged their support to the code at various fora and must thus be held by their words.
The Ghana Banking Code of Ethics and Business Conduct was developed through a consultative and democratic process which involved major industry players.
The final document was put together through the joint effort of the Bank of Ghana, Chartered Institute of Bankers (CIB) and the Ghana Association of Bankers, with the objective of ensuring strict adherence to best banking practices and maintaining high ethical and professional standards within the banking industry.
Mr. Opuni said the effective and intentional collaboration of all these parties in the development process, was in itself a tacit acknowledgement of the need to set and adhere to these ethical standards.
“I am confident that going forward, all stakeholders will play their role to ensure that players within the industry abide by the directives enshrined in the document and ultimately this will reap excellent returns for the industry, shareholders, and the country as a whole,” he stated.
The managing director also noted that the new code of ethics laid out a streamlined approach for dealing with complaints of unethical, corrupt, or unprofessional practices with clearly outlined sanctions for infractions.
“I believe this clarity regarding the modus operandi for addressing breaches of the code also makes it easier to enforce the regulations as there is very little confusion regarding what to do when ethical breaches are reported.
“Additionally, I believe recent incidents with regard to the banking sector reforms which were partly necessitated by issues relating to clarity of ethical standards and regulatory statutes, serve as an added incentive to embrace and enforce the Ghana Banking Code of Ethics and Business Conduct,” he stated.
He said another notable indicator that these directives on ethical conduct were being taken seriously was the fact that several engagements had been lined up to sensitise banking professionals and other stakeholders to the provisions of the code to ensure compliance.
“In this regard, he said the CIB had been very influential and supportive by providing training and guidance to the sector through a series of tailor-made training programmes designed to sensitise banking professionals to the Ghana Banking Code of Ethics and Business Conduct.
Ethics must be given much attention
Mr. Opuni also urged the media to give much attention to ethics as much as it did to banks’ profits and revenues.
“At the end of the day, of what import is growth in revenue for instance, if the said growth is not attained ethically? World-class institutions uphold proper business conduct and ethics, and the same must apply here in Ghana.
“That said, I must admit that the media is already playing a key role in this regard by providing the platform for in-depth discussions on ethics and regulations in banking, and by carrying out investigations into issues around ethical breaches,” he noted.
He said that was a positive development for the industry and therefore expected the media to continue to do more in that regard to support the regulator and other stakeholders in maintaining ethical standards.
Challenges with digitisation
Mr. Opuni noted that although digitalisation was the order of this new age, it came with its peculiar challenges and uncertainties.
He said as banks migrated most of their systems, processes and services to digital platforms, it was critical to integrate their code of ethics into these digitalised processes and procedures in the form of controls.
He said those controls must be monitored and adopted at all levels of the organisation.
“Our digital systems and processes must be configured such that relevant information is easily accessible to the appropriate stakeholders, and deviations or breaches from standard practice or protocols are easily detected or flagged for further investigation,” he stated.
Rise of digital currencies
The managing director also pointed out that the rise of digital currencies was inevitable because the future was digital.
In this vein, he said the digital currency space needed to be explored with all seriousness as it offered certain potential advantages and served as a viable alternative to the traditional currency options.
He said it was therefore noteworthy that the Bank of Ghana was already taking some bold steps in that direction by partnering with Giesecke+Devrient (G+D) to pilot a general-purpose Central Bank Digital Currency dubbed the e-Cedi.
“This will serve as a digital alternative to physical cash, providing a secure and safe medium to drive the cash lite agenda in Ghana,” he said.