February 15, 2011 03:24 PM
By Carol Cosgrove-Sacks, Director, Ethics in Finance Robin Cosgrove Prize
Are robust ethical standards important in finance? Would you put your money in a bank you don't fully trust? What makes you think a bank is trustworthy?
The Ethics in Finance Robin Cosgrove Prize has launched a global debate on these issues, and is seeking fresh ideas to inspire young people working -- or hoping to work -- in the financial services sector. The Prize, which Citi invited me to highlight here, has become an iconic influence in stimulating innovative approaches to ethics in finance. Doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do may sound simple, but there seems to have been rather a lot of confusion in recent years about what is "right" in terms of corporate and personal ethics and integrity.
The global Ethics in Finance Robin Cosgrove Prize invites people younger than 35 to submit a written paper on some aspect of ethics, integrity and trust regarding their vision of finance. The paper can be written in English or in French, and must be submitted by the deadline of March 31, 2011. The Prize of $20,000 will be awarded in an international ceremony in Fall 2011. The regional Ética en las Finanzas Premio Robin Cosgrove, focused on Ibero-America, invites young professionals and advanced students to submit papers written in Spanish or Portuguese, again by the deadline of March 31, 2011, with a prize of $15,000.
The Prize was first launched in 2006, long before the banking crisis of 2008, after which the topic of ethical behaviors became fashionable. We are not simply responding to the current crisis -- we want to shift thinking among young finance professionals, encouraging them to reflect on how they see ethics and integrity in their professional roles and to motivate them to communicate their ideas.
Robin, who died in a tragic accident on the mountainside of Mont Blanc in 2004, was an outstanding young investment banker who had a sadly short, but remarkably international career. In the course of his work around the world, he became convinced that personal integrity and strong ethical standards were not adequately promoted by the finance establishment and that young people in the sector needed to engage more in debate about integrity, trust and ethics.
The Prize was launched to promote Robin's vision. Through the competition and the website -- http://www.robincosgroveprize.org -- we hope to support the sustainable and responsible future of the international finance sector based on stronger reflection on ethical awareness and commitment to values that would ensure that banks, insurance companies, investment houses, accountants, and all the diverse actors in the industry show a clear commitment to the added value of ethics in finance -- for the benefit of us all.
The competition for the Ethics in Finance Robin Cosgrove Prizes is proving to be an agent of change going beyond compliance issues and promoting a refreshing approach -- look at the website, see how you might contribute to this important debate, and write about your ideas to make a difference and promote innovative ideas for ethics in finance.
Carol Cosgrove-Sacks is a Geneva-based trade development economist and mother of Robin Cosgrove.
Citi is not a sponsor of or connected to the Ethics in Finance Robin Cosgrove Prize.