The challenge of assessing and shaping bank conduct, ethics and culture: Insights from the social sciences

Matthew Connell, Head of Regulatory Developments, Zurich Insurance Group’s UK Life Business


Abstract: Organisational culture is a notoriously difficult subject for financial institutions. This paper examines how approaches from a variety of different disciplines can be used to assess and shape an institution’s culture. It goes on to look at one approach — the Theory of the Convention — in detail. This model is based on the observation that individuals coordinate with each other by invoking different standards of behaviour. These standards are based on shared expectations about how people should behave when carrying out roles such as family member, citizen, celebrity, technical expert or merchant. We learn about these expectations through experience, and invoke them through familiar symbols and conventions. Often it is unclear which set of expectations should be adhered to, and this ambiguity leads to rival cultures and subcultures. This paper applies the concepts contained in the Theory of the Convention to the case of the LIBOR rate manipulation scandal, to show how it is possible to break a process down to the constituent standards used by individuals to plot their actions and predict the actions of others. It goes on to identify which of those standards contribute to sustaining a healthy organisation, and the measures that can be taken to reinforce positive elements and address negative elements in an organisation’s culture.


Keywords: culture, convention, LIBOR, organisation, order of worth


Matthew Connell is Head of Regulatory Developments for Zurich Insurance Group’s UK Life Business. He has worked in banking and insurance for more than 20 years, with a focus on financial regulation and welfare reform. He is currently the Chairman of the Investment and Life Assurance Group (ILAG). He holds an MSc in Public Relations from the University of Sterling and a PhD in Policy Studies from the University of Warwick.



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