What financial services can learn from the culture of voluntary transparency in professional athletics

“I work so hard for what I do. It has taken me half of my life to achieve what I achieved and for people to think I am taking a shortcut is not fair. I am 100 percent clean. This picture of me as a cheat is not right, it’s not fair. Why me?”

Mo Farah’s ‘triple double’ victory this weekend (adding two gold medals from Beijing to go with his two victories in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres at London 2012 and in the last World Championships) must taste all the sweeter given he has cleared his name following the doping scandal engulfing his coach, Alberto Salazar.

Much like the financial services sector, athletics is undergoing a crisis of confidence in the ethics of its ingrained culture. Earlier this month, a Sunday Times investigation revealed questionable historic blood results from many athletes that the IAAF has ignored over the past ten years, despite these athletes winning many World and Olympic titles. 66 athletes competing at the Beijing World Championships have failed drug tests in the past, with the sprinter Justin Gatlin one of the most high profile.

Farah has removed all doubt from his breathtaking series of victories by publishing his personal blood-test data in the paper. Like the cyclist Chris Froome’s decision to release power data from his outstanding performance in this year’s Tour de France, Farah has seized the opportunity to prove he is clean, winning the PR battle in the process.

There is much businesses can learn from Farah and Froome. When the ethical culture of your sector is under fierce criticism – as is the case with financial services organisations – don’t wait to be forced by regulatory bodies to show you are ‘clean’ through compulsory audits. Take the initiative and do it yourself. Audit your own culture. Share the results.

There will be excuses. ‘We need to be careful how much business-sensitive data we share with our competitors.’ ‘What happens if the audit shows we still have serious cultural problems?’ But a voluntary culture of transparency can have a huge impact on brand perception. Being one of the first to stand up for a better way of doing things will inspire trust and confidence while silencing the critics.

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Posted on 1st September 2015 in Insight
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