The Importance of Business Ethics
Have you ever been in a situation where you are dealing with a client who is looking for preferential treatment? You might have an existing relationship with this client and you want to give them a deal, but you know you can’t offer the same to every other client. How do you navigate this issue?
Here's another scenario you may be familiar with — Say you are approached by a prospective customer but there’s a language barrier between the two of you. You know this person is looking for help, but it’s not as straight forward as asking questions and getting them answers. Would you throw up your hands and walk away or would you find a creative solution to the communication challenge?
The above scenarios are examples of ethical business dilemmas. How so, you ask? Let’s dive right in:
What are business ethics?
Business ethics refers to the standards for moral conduct in business. Some companies have a specific document outlining staff expectations. It’s usually called “The Code of Conduct.” The code of conduct guides the behavior of every employee within the company. This includes interactions with local governments, their competitors, employees, and customers.
Why are business ethics important?
Honest businesses maintain positive relationships with their customers. Plain and simple. A trustworthy reputation makes it more likely you will attract business through recommendations from current customers to their friends, family, and colleagues. Likewise, people will also share when to avoid companies who act unethically. HomeStreet Bank’s success depends on the professional capabilities of our directors, officers, and employees, in addition to the reputation of our business.
Let’s look at a real-life example:
Recently, our San Diego commercial banking team was approached by a prospect interested in a larger equipment loan. The prospect owned a newly formed company with a relation to a long-established, family-owned contractor business, yet not a subsidiary. This prospect was looking to grow and inquired about a commercial loan to help him do so. One of HomeStreet Bank’s commercial bankers offered him a competitive loan with a co-borrower structure requirement. Another area bank initially offered the prospect the same loan terms without the co-borrower requirement. The prospect was vocal about his disappointment with HomeStreet and provided some strong negative feedback. We were also disappointed given the effort put forth and concern that we had lost the opportunity. However, a week later the prospect called us and indicated the other bank was, indeed, requiring a co-borrower after all. The prospect, now frustrated with the back and forth of the competitor bank, chose to move forward with HomeStreet given our initial straight-forwardness and honesty. While often it’s tough to have conversations you know may not be what your customer wants to hear, we pride ourselves on being straight-forward in ALL of our conversations. Honesty creates relationships based on trust and respect.
How does HomeStreet Bank adhere to ethical business practices?
All of us at HomeStreet are held to the high standards within our Code of Ethics and Business Conduct manual. Each year, we must acknowledge we have read and understood the code. Our culture is also one of excellence with a motto of exceeding customer expectations with every interaction.
To address our stakeholders' sustainability expectations, in 2022, we developed our inaugural Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) report. The ESG report details our ESG strategies, activities, progress, metrics, and performance.
We also promote business ethics through our active community relations efforts. HomeStreet has been committed to our communities in which we serve for over 100 years. In 2022, HomeStreet donated $1 million to local non-profit organizations and our community-focused employees recorded 7,000 hours of volunteer time across our footprint.
Is there another example of an ethics challenge a HomeStreet employee has faced?
A few months ago, a local HomeStreet branch employee, Ann Marie, noticed a customer who appeared to be interested in our latest promotional certificate of deposit products. When asked if she needed assistance, the customer responded that she was hard of hearing and couldn’t understand Ann Marie. Ann Marie proceeded to provide the customer with a pen and paper so they could easily communicate. The customer shared she had a CD coming due at another institution and she was comparing rates. Ann Marie helped her do so and provided non-bank jargon information about how the annualized percentage yield interest rate was calculated. The customer said HomeStreet was the first bank she visited that had offered to help her compare rates in such a friendly and easy to understand fashion. The customer chose to do business with HomeStreet as a result.
At HomeStreet Bank, we pride ourselves in taking the time to listen to each other's viewpoints. We embrace and value diversity and inclusiveness. In fact, this behavior is written out in one of our Corporate Values — “Excellence: We are ethical in our approach with customers, in our daily work, and are diligent in our risk management.”
Why is HomeStreet Bank aligned with the Better Business Bureau?
As a community bank, we share similar values and interests in helping companies grow and thrive. To do so, we understand the importance of operating with honesty and integrity. This is precisely why we supported this year’s Better Business Bureau Torch Awards for Ethics – an award that celebrates companies demonstrating outstanding integrity throughout their operations.
About the author
Dino D’Auria is the California Regional President for HomeStreet Bank’s Commercial Banking team where he helps San Diego privately held companies grow. Prior to becoming a banker, Dino worked in several family-owned businesses including outdoor sporting goods and real estate. He is currently involved on committees with the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp including the Economic Committee, the Innovate 78 and Inclusive Growth initiatives and is active in Provisors and Association for Corporate Growth.