Ethical do's and don'ts in the financial servicing of customers

Date of publication: September 19, 2004


Although banks tend to be considerate about implications of marketing decisions, their actions are quite often portrayed in media as unethical. This study seeks insight in what constitutes headline news; what constitutes an ethical problem; and the impact of negative exposure on ethical problem perception. The first question was addressed by conducting discussions with journalists of leading Belgian newspapers. The approach for the second question was threefold and was addressed by interviewing scholars in ethics, by asking a sample of 1100 Belgians to judge 37 actions taken by a major bank, and by a study which tested the idea that ethical problem perception is a function of six situational variables (Jones, 1991). The third question was tested by manipulating tone of voice of an action scenario experimentally. The results show that major banks are a sure thing for journalists who wish to maximise newspaper sales, that bank actions are likely to be judged with reference to 'the duty to care for' and 'authenticity', and that a negative tone of voice has a major impact on the acceptability of an action. The results will be discussed with respect to how managers may make use of these insights.

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