The Tip of the Iceberg: Financial Ethics vs. Ethos

While my most recent blog post highlighted the progress made by the financial services industry and the nation in the decade since the financial crisis, there is no denying that we still see examples of bad behavior in the financial services industry. Why might this be?

An iceberg graphic used by Dr. William Brendel at the Center for Ethical Organizations may help us understand. Brendel posits that, for any organization, “Ethics” are merely the visible part of the iceberg and reflect conscious behaviors. “Ethos,” an organization’s subconscious culture and values, are what lie beneath the water line and are much more important determinants of how an organization will behave over time.

Despite the actions taken by our government, monetary policymakers or financial regulatory bodies, the continued existence of bad behavior in our industry seems to indicate that some companies still have work to do on the ethos that drives what they do.