Financial Services Culture Board - 2021 FSCB Employee Survey

External resource
11 November 2021

Tags: Decision-making, Employees, Diversity

The FSCB surveyed over 45,000 employees to understand their views on the following 9 characteristics: honesty, respect, openness, accountability, competence, reliability, resilience, responsiveness, and shared purpose. The IBE has picked out some key findings that are directly relevant to business ethics.

In their sixth annual assessment exercise, the FSCB received over 45,000 responses from employees across 24 banks and building societies. The survey included 36 questions covering 9 characteristics deemed integral to success in the industry. We have summarised some of the key findings that are most relevant to business ethics.

Maintained progress on ethical behaviour

  • 10% of employees in both 2021 and 2020 said they saw instances in their organisation of unethical behaviour being rewarded, compared with 13% in 2019
  • 14% of respondents said that they saw people in their organisation turn a blind eye to inappropriate behaviour in 2021, compared with 15% in 2020 and 19% in 2019
  • 92% of respondents said that their colleagues act in an honest and ethical way in 2021 and 2020, up from an all-time low of 70% in 2018
Room for improvement on diversity and inclusion
  • 14% of respondents worry that people they interact with at work draw conclusions about their ability based on stereotypes about their identity or background
  • 24% of Asian/Asian British respondents and 21% of Black/Black British respondents said it was difficult to make career progressions without flexing their ethical standards compared to 11% of White British employees
  • 19% of Black/Black British respondents and 17% of Asian/Asian British respondents said they saw people in their organisations turn a blind eye to inappropriate behaviour compared to 12% of White/White British respondents
  • 56% of those with a disability said they felt under excessive pressure at work, compared to 43% of those without a disability
  • However, aside from a few exceptions, no significant differences were found in the way that employees responded depending on differences in their religious beliefs, sexual preferences, or socio-economic backgrounds
Values and culture
  • 84% said that their organisations’ purpose and values are meaningful to them, but only 68% said that there is no conflict between those values and how they do business, compared with 87% and 71% in 2020, respectively.
  • 83% say they are encouraged to follow ‘the spirit of the rules’ and not just what the words mean, marginally down from 85% in 2020
  • 26% would be worried about the negative consequences for themselves if they raised concerns about the way they work, up from 23% in 2020
  • 14% say that it is difficult to make career progression in their organisation without flexing their ethical standards
  • 89% said that Risk and Compliance are both respected functions in their organisation
Interpersonal relations
  • 90% of respondents feel that they are treated with respect at work, marginally down from 92% in 2020
  • 80% said that people seek and respect different opinions when making decisions in their organisation
  • 94% feel accepted by their colleagues at work - only 2% do not
Pressure to perform
  • 43% often feel under excessive pressure to perform in their work, up from 39% in 2020
  • 24% said that working in their organisation has a negative impact on their health and well-being, up from 20% in 2020
  • 30% see people in their organisation try to avoid responsibility in case something goes wrong
Imperfect leaders
  • 72% believe senior leaders in their organisation mean what they say, down from 77% in 2020
  • 68% said that senior leaders in their organisation take responsibility, especially if things go wrong, compared with 72% in 2020
  • 78% feel comfortable challenging a decision made by their manager

This research suggests that while unethical behaviour of individuals is becoming increasingly unacceptable in the financial services industry, there remains much work to be done to promote diversity and ensure that employees from minority backgrounds feel that they are operating on a level playing field. Furthermore, the disparity between employees’ affinity to their organisations’ values and how they perceive their organisations are living up to those values, suggests that unethical behaviour at a more global level remains an issue. Perhaps these problems stem from those in leadership roles, who clearly need to build more trust and accountability within their organisations and lead by example.

Financial services remains an industry of high pressure which has an impact on many employees’ health and well-being. This, and particularly that the pressure disproportionately affects disabled employees, is a worrying result that definitely needs addressing.

Finally, as the IBE stresses consistently, the threat and fear of retaliation against those who Speak Up about wrongdoing must be eliminated as a barrier to progress on ethical culture and conduct.