Financial Planning
A question of ethics

The Royal Commission could have been avoided if one simple question had been asked: Does this feel right?

Reinforcing closing remarks from the HIH Royal Commission in 2003, The Ethics Centre senior adviser Trent Moy said it is groupthink that reinforces bad habits and much of the questionable conduct uncovered by the Financial Services Royal Commission could have been avoided if just one person had asked themselves the question.

"The biggest thing that struck me was the lack of questions being asked [as to the conduct]. There is a process missing, and that is of asking questions in such a way that something might be illuminated," Moy said.

Over time, organisations develop habits - both good and bad - but if that habit were to ask questions that illuminate, it would be a very different organisation, he said.

"Human beings make decisions with their gut first and then back fill with their brain. It doesn't work the other way around; we respond instinctively and then make a decision," Moy said.

When thinking about what one ought to do, the problem we encounter at a lot of the bigger organisations is the groupthink that goes on, he said.

"We can't see that perspective that there might be a different perspective outside of this particular group of people and way of thinking ... We are making decisions based on a very narrow data set," Moy said.

He added that the predominant assumption surrounding the misconduct is that a bad person with bad intent did a bad thing. In fact, it is far more likely that an ordinary person with good, strong values hasn't been able to see past the system.

"The system has gotten in the way of them being able to act upon their values in such a way that they can be aligned to societal norms. I think that's part of the complexity that we're dealing with here," he said.

Read more: Royal CommissionTrent MoyThe Ethics Centre
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