Ask our experts

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 October, 2011, 12:00am


This week the panel is asked: What can the financial industry do to repair its image?

Dr Mark Konyn (chief executive RCM Asia Pacific)

At the onset of the financial crisis, when bankers became increasingly unpopular in society, I did not realise that fund managers, too, would be viewed with increasing derision. In my 25 years in the industry I always considered fund management a noble profession, allocating capital for the longer term benefit of savers and institutions, with the interests of those involved closely aligned with the clients.

As it turned out, I was wrong.

Close friends not in financial services confirmed that as far as they were concerned anyone involved in finance was tarred with the same brush. We were all guilty, overpaid and selfish. Local experts could not distinguish between different roles. The Hong Kong press referred to fund managers as being culpable in the minibonds debacle despite this being a product of investment banks. I was guilty by association.

Protests in Central capture the zeitgeist. Senior executives in financial services companies are now considering how they can improve the situation and help restore confidence in an industry likely to come under increasing scrutiny and should not neglect the next generation of graduates.

Christine Loh (chief executive of Civic Exchange)

People are angry. The Occupy Wall Street movement morphed into a 'Day of Rage' springing up around the world, including Hong Kong. People are protesting against what they think is corporate greed. They are calling upon their governments to pay heed to the plight of citizens rather than the financial markets.

People remember the huge bailouts given to prop up banks after they placed risky financial bets - money that could have gone to health care, education and welfare.

The political and business elites in many places are too closely intertwined. What is good for commercial interests may not be good for the public. Look at how long the Hong Kong government is taking to stop malpractice in property sales. This tolerance of wrongdoing is exactly what folk are mad about. Their government is not protecting them from being ripped off and they accuse officials of colluding with the business elites.

Governments need to decide whether their policies truly serve the public interest. In Hong Kong, how about the excessive interest charged on credit cards? Another gripe is the Mandatory Provident Fund - when can we see lower charges?

John Rogers (president and CEO of CFA Institute)

The protests are partially due to diminishing trust between the finance industry and the public. The financial sector has alienated ordinary people: it has been perceived as a profit collector rather than a catalyst of economic growth; and the 'people on Wall Street' seem to be making lots of money these days, in contrast to most people, who are struggling to get by.

To repair and rebuild the image, the finance profession should, firstly, renew a commitment to supporting society's interests in matching risk capital to the needs of enterprises that drive and sustain economic vitality. This is the essence of finance - matching capital and good ideas to build businesses and communities. Firms should commit to corporate social responsibility because it is good business.

Next, the profession must again embrace the concept of fiduciary behaviour. There is double-talk about whether financial institutions exist to make money solely for themselves and their shareholders, or to make decisions based on the best interests of their clients.

In short, we should keep our commitment to uphold and advocate ethics and best practices.