Remarks by Angel Gurría
Monday, 18 November 2019 - OECD, Paris
(As prepared for delivery)
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to the OECD. Welcome to the Award Ceremony of the 7th edition of the Ethics & Trust in Finance Global Prize.
Let me start by congratulating the finalists for their ground-breaking work and efforts in promoting ethics, responsibility and trust in the world of finance. It is an honour to host this event, with such inspiring participants on such a relevant topic.
Public trust in the financial sector is crucial for market economies and social progress. Unfortunately, more than ten years after the crisis, and in spite of significant reforms, trust in financial institutions in OECD countries still remains relatively low.
In fact, according to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer: Financial Services Report, which measures trust in 27 countries, levels of trust in the financial sector have improved in recent years, but finance is still the least trusted sector among the eight sectors measured by the Trust Barometer, with trust levels at 57%.
This has to change. Financial markets are the nervous systems of our economies. They are key in ensuring the efficient allocation of capital and they are the primary intermediate between investors and economic actors. As such, public trust in finance and financial institutions and authorities plays a vital role in transforming savings into investments and economic growth.
At this delicate moment, when the global economy is going through another period of uncertainty and low growth, we will need to count on more responsible, reliable, efficient and effective financial markets to recover the dynamism of our economies. And we are going to need the papers, the ideas and the proposals that you have put forward, driven by this Ethics & Trust in Finance Prize. This is why this meeting is so important.
Promoting ethics and trust in finance is at the heart of the OECD’s work. We are advancing in many parallel tracks.
Our work on Automatic Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes is boosting transparency and communication between banks and governments. By the end of September 2019, close to 50 million bank accounts worth a total of EUR 5 trillion had exchanged information, and close to EUR 100 billion of additional tax revenues have been identified. The global banking system is no longer a place to hide money.
Our work to improve corporate governance through the G20-OECD Principles of Corporate Governance is providing globally-recognised standards on transparency, accountability and business integrity, including in the financial sector. The Financial Stability Board is analysing and evaluating how member jurisdictions have applied these Principles to publicly listed, regulated financial institutions.
Our work in the fight against bribery through the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, which 44 countries have signed, is also contributing to cleaning the global financial system. Thanks to this work foreign bribery is now a crime in most major exporting countries, and many companies have adopted or enhanced ethics and compliance programmes. The financial sector also faces key responsibilities when it comes to the implementation of our global standards against transnational bribery.
Our work to promote responsible business conduct (RBC) through the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises is helping to incorporate risk-based due diligence into major areas of business responsibility, including the financial sector. In October 2019, the OECD released a Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct in General Corporate Lending and Underwriting Transactions. It sets out the first broadly recognised environmental and social standards for corporate lending and underwriting transactions. This was developed in close consultation with leading global banks and approved by 48 governments.
Our newly launched Trust in Business Initiative brings public and private sector leaders together to encourage good corporate conduct, examine market incentives for business decision-making, and respond to society’s expectations in meeting current and future challenges.
Finally, we are also working hard to help countries turn their financial systems into tools to promote more sustainable growth and fight climate change through studies such as Financing Climate Futures and the creation of the Centre on Green Finance and Investment. The OECD also recently created the Business for Inclusive Growth (B4IG) Platform, to unite governments and businesses behind a broad-based, sustainable growth agenda that places social and environmental returns at the same level as financial returns.
And we are also helping governments design better policies to deepen and expand digital financial literacy and financial inclusion.
All of these efforts play a powerful role in building the right frameworks, regulations and incentives to increase the reliability of financial sectors around the world.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Honorary Member of the Jury of this Prize, “Ethics matters, first because whether it is a huge transaction.. or a retail deposit, ethics creates trust, and without trust finance congeals in the arteries of the economy, and there is collapse.”
I want to congratulate you all for your work and efforts on such a crucial and topical issue. We count on young and innovative experts like yourselves to continue this endeavour to improve businesses’ ethical conduct and win back trust in finance.
Know that you will always find an ally at the OECD to further your work on trust and ethics in the financial sector. Thank you.