Being ethical and transparent

ACCA’s Code of Ethics and Conduct requires that its members be straightforward and honest in all their professional and business relationships. After all, honesty and integrity are cornerstones of accountancy

‘Integrity is something you offer to the world – it comes from your inner honesty and is matched by the trustworthiness that others confer upon you,’ says Rob Sowerby, former management accountant and financial analyst, and now professional courses director of the London School of Business and Finance.

‘The key to acting with integrity is to ensure that the decisions you make are never compromised,’ he adds, suggesting that one simple way of assessing whether you are acting with integrity is to think whether your parents or guardians would be happy with your actions. ‘You can place the decision in any third-person’s hands that you know is trustworthy, and imagine what they would do.’

Acting without bias

Another aspect of acting with integrity is to make a clear distinction between fact and opinion when giving advice, according to Sowerby. ‘By doing so you may be able to influence decision making but, at the same time, act without bias,’ he says.

Kamila Naqvi, senior ACCA lecturer at the Toronto School of Management, points out that integrity comes from the Latin word ‘integer’ or whole number. ‘Like a whole number, a person of integrity is complete and undivided,’ she says. ‘They can be trusted to behave consistently with their core values.’

Naqvi also points out the relationship between transparency and trust: ‘Transparency can be thought of as integrity with evidence to support it. To cultivate transparency in your decision making, you should be honest, reliable, authentic, credible and consistent. People are much more likely to value your advice if you make sure to explain your reasoning.’

Remember also that honesty and integrity are also valued by your colleagues, not just your clients. And, as Sowerby points out, reputations are hard-won, so protect yours: ‘Entering a team as a newcomer, you are likely to be treated with some degree of caution until people are satisfied that you are trustworthy. You have to earn that trust, but it can be lost in a second if you are found to have acted in a less than honest manner.’

‘Trust and respect are garnered through demonstrable moral conduct,’ adds Naqvi. ‘And people who exhibit integrity draw others to them because they are trustworthy and dependable. Good character can even give you a competitive advantage in the workplace.’

Six top tips:

  1. Follow your professional ethical compass
  2. Speak up when you see or suspect misconduct
  3. Follow the ACCA’s Code of Ethics and Conduct
  4. Take a look at ACCA's Ethics and Professional Skills module, and attempt it before you start the Strategic Professional level
  5. Remember you are not alone – if in doubt, consult with those around you, as well as experts
  6. Be transparent and accept that we all make mistakes

Source: José R Hernandez, a scandal response consultant and forensic accountant, and CEO of Ortus Strategies