Vincent Fairfax Oration and Graduation Dinner 2018

Vincent Fairfax Oration and Graduation Dinner 2018

The invitation to hear directly from ANZ CEO, Shayne Elliott, about the ethics of banking attracted a full house to the 2018 Vincent Fairfax Oration and graduation dinner at Ormond College on Thursday 28 June.

The guest list included Vincent Fairfax Fellowship alumni, the graduating cohort of 2017/18 and distinguished guests including members of the Fairfax family and board, Nobel Peace Prize winners, Dimity Hawkins and Tillman Ruff, guest speaker, Shayne Elliott, former Queensland Premier and Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Banking Association, Anna Bligh, and faculty and friends of the Centre for Ethical Leadership.

The Legacy of Sir Vincent Fairfax to Address Corporate Greed

Vincent-Fairfax-Fellowship-Angus-WhiteAngus White, the grandson of Sir Vincent Fairfax, and Chairman of the Vincent Fairfax Ethics in Leadership Foundation, gave context to the origins of the Vincent Fairfax Fellowship. He spoke of his grandfather as a man driven by principle and purpose.

“In the 1980s there were some dubious practices going on in corporate Australia. It was the Alan Bond, Christopher Skase era of opportunistic takeovers and huge debt leverage, perhaps a time of greed to succeed.  I was an ignorant teenager at the time, but my grandfather, Sir Vincent, was concerned about it.  He was fundamentally interested in good leadership. This seemed to be lacking,” said Mr White.

The Fairfax family established the Vincent Fairfax Fellowship a year after the death of Sir Vincent.

“At the close of his life, the idea of a legacy in his [Sir Vincent’s] honour was explored by my father Geoffrey White when he was Executive Director of the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation.  The result was the establishment of the Vincent Fairfax Fellowship in 1994, a year after his [Sir Vincent’s] death. It is a national program that develops ethical leaders across a spectrum of industries.  Participants are able to step out of their everyday roles and engage confidentially with diverse and high-level peers on the dimensions of ethical leadership in practice,” said Mr White

ABC RN Drive’s Patricia Karvelas interviews Shayne Elliott

Rather than give a speech, Shayne Elliott opted for an interview with ABC RN Drive host, Patricia Karvelas.

Top of the agenda for Ms Karvelas was to discuss the Royal Commission and to question how the ethical failings brought to light so far by the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry could have been avoided, as well as positive moves already made by the ANZ CEO.

Mr Elliott admitted the banking industry was wrong to resist a Royal Commission and that the findings have shocked Australians.

“We thought that our efforts and resources were better served fixing real issues rather than going through this [Royal Commission] but as I’ve said since then we were wrong to resist it. The reality is that revelations about the industry’s practices and even ourselves at ANZ have shocked people and we thought we knew a lot – we didn’t know everything,” said Mr Elliott.

Ms Karvelas asked Mr Elliott about the ethical failings in the culture at ANZ.

“Our industry is complex. It sounds easy, you take a bunch of deposits and you lend them out to other people, it’s highly leveraged and the fact is we have multiple stakeholders and our job is about managing the grey, it’s about managing trade-offs. We tend to think about the people borrowing money but we have a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders and the people depositing money…so we’re always balancing these different needs. Part of the reason why we have the problems today is we have the balance wrong…” said Mr Elliott.

Director of the Centre for Ethical Leadership, Peter Collins, said Shayne Elliott’s frank and open discussion engrossed the audience.

“Shayne Elliott’s preparedness to speak so openly and with humility about how he and other leaders grapple with and sometimes deal with complex ethical issues was a highlight of the night. His message that it was vital to ‘turn up’ and deal with issues struck a chord with the large crowd, as did his resolve that ethical leadership is about what you do next in the light of failings,” said Mr Collins.

Olivia Brown, faculty member of the Centre for Ethical Leadership and former Co-COO of Mergers and Acquisitions at Goldman Sachs Australia, was similarly impressed with Shayne Elliott’s frank discussion with Patricia Karvelas.

“Shayne’s authenticity and leadership were clear in his interview with Patricia Karvelas and his perspectives on the ethical leadership required to restore trust in organisations were highly relevant to all leaders in all sectors facing a far greater level of public scrutiny of their ethics and culture,” said Ms Brown.

Congratulations to the 2017/18 Graduates

The interview was preceded by the graduation ceremony for the 2017/18 cohort of Vincent Fairfax Fellows. The graduating class spent the past year deepening skills in ethical leadership such as ethical decision-making frameworks and working through real life ethical dilemmas with the support of the faculty Centre for Ethical Leadership, coaches and their cohort of senior leaders.

Roly Clifton-Bligh, who is the Director of Corporate Services (COO, CFO) at the State Library of Victoria and a member of the graduating class of 2018 said being a Vincent Fairfax Fellow was meaningful to his career.

“I feel I have learnt so much over the course of the year and I certainly feel much more aware about ethical issues, constructs and solutions. It was an honour to be part of such a great and giving group,” said Mr Clifton-Bligh.

The Value of Education in Ethical Leadership

Incoming Vincent Fairfax Fellow, Libby Davidson, was delighted to meet her cohort and members of the alumni and interested in Shayne Elliott’s views on creating an ethical culture.

“On a personal level, I feel excited and inspired by tonight. It is so good to meet some of the outgoing and incoming cohort.  From a professional point-of-view I wonder whether at least some of the unethical behaviour of the banks is a result of people being afraid of stepping out of line and following their personal moral compass, versus what they think the company expects of them (eg profitability, growth, shareholder returns).

The conversation about the importance of getting culture right in big organisations got me thinking about the need for ethical leadership training across these organisations - not just for the lucky few who get to do the Vincent Fairfax Fellowship! Would so many bad decisions have been made at the banks if every employee had regular ethical decision- making training?” said Ms Davidson.

Vincent Fairfax Fellowship alumnus, Roly Clifton-Bligh felt Shayne Elliott’s reflection that only 20 percent of staff are customer-facing was interesting.

“I felt Shayne’s observations about less than 20 percent of his workforce seeing a customer were curious... as in this would have helped create a more ethical response. He seemed to be linking humanisation of the bank to better ethics... an interesting point,” said Mr Clifton-Bligh.

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