What Does Transparency Look Like?
Transparency Does Not Need to Be Hard
“To achieve an equitable, inclusive, and more prosperous future for all, we must foster a culture of integrity, transparency, accountability, and good governance.” - UN General Secretary, Ban Ki Moon
In the wake of huge money laundering scandals across European banks, this future may feel further away than ever. However, at Sigma Ratings, we believe that financial institutions can improve by improving their technology. Even though improvement is necessary across the financial industry, we have noticed great examples of transparency. Many industry leaders are using their corporate websites to provide information critical to understanding compliance, governance, and sustainability risks.
For example, HSH Nordbank’s website is representative of a commitment to transparency. Any customer, client, counterparty or regulator can find the information they need to make a decision. The bank provides its credit ratings, tier 1 ratios, beneficial ownership structure and CVs for each of its board members. The work that HSH Nordbank has done needs to become the standard for all financial institutions. Luckily, it is not that hard for others to to adopt transparency.
Easy things banks can do to improve transparency:
- Publish annual reports & financials online
- Publish external audits such as CEFEX , LEED, or Cyber Security Ratings
- Publish relevant filings such as ADVs, Wolfsbergs and Patriot Act Certificates
- Provide spreadsheets of ownership and executive management
- Publish beneficial ownership, not just direct ownership
- Publish a list of board members (including tenure, bios and potential conflicts)
- Publish a list of correspondents and counterparties
Advanced things banks can do to improve transparency
- Create an RSS feed for Press Releases
- Publish aggregated & anonymized data on environmental impact, suspicious customer activity, and social impact
- Publish training requirements for compliance staff
- Publish minutes from board committees
- Publish a timeline of fines and regulatory actions
- Opt in to receive external audits such as a Sigma Certified Rating™
Publishing high quality information on a website is the easiest way to show a commitment to transparency. Investors, other financial institutions, and regulators will appreciate the ease of access during due diligence. An organization that does not hesitant to share, is one that signals it has nothing to hide.