Face Value
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Face Value

Doing the Right Thing — Beyond the P&L

As a financial services leader, I often find myself reflecting on the question of ethics in business and my organization’s social mission. In a fast-moving and constantly changing business environment, there is an increasing need to do more with less and, of course, to be more profitable. But what really drives profitability these days? Investing for the future requires us to look beyond the P&L, and to hone in on an element just as important….the value we bring to society at large.

Money talks, yes. But how do we make sure we stay relevant and profitable as a business, while doing what is good for our people, our clients and society? More importantly, these do not have to be mutually exclusive missions! Finding the right balance requires a moral compass that looks beyond the P&L.

Here are some of the key ways we can not only drive financial performance for our organizations, but also help to build a better future for all:

Operate with Integrity

Integrity has to be the foundation of any business, as it’s all about building trust. Trust can make or break any relationship type — business, personal or professional. Integrity in business can positively impact the bottom line as maintaining and nurturing existing clients is a lot less expensive than acquiring new ones.

In this industry, there are always issues that arise. I can honestly say that throughout my career, I have never looked at a contract after it has been signed. If an issue surfaces, don’t argue the fine print. Find a way to fix it. Building a reputation for “doing the right thing when no one is looking” takes time. But, it is the cornerstone of client service. Of course, the first step in understanding the definition of the “right thing” is to ensure a higher level purpose is understood by all.

Have a Purpose

I will admit that, in financial services, the connection between our business and how we benefit society may not always be clear. Put as simply as possible; we protect, grow, and account for people’s nest eggs, helping to preserve their well-being and futures. For example, when we’re hired as a depository, we are essentially protecting investors from a Madoff type fraud by performing extensive due diligence to safeguard their investments. Whenever an issue is presented, I simply say to myself, “OK, this is my mom’s retirement money I am dealing with here.” — Somehow, the “right thing” becomes very obvious.

Empower an Inclusive Workforce

Innovation drives the future P&L of any business. We live in a world where diverse people, thoughts, and skills are not only beneficial but critical to our collective success. Welcoming and encouraging an inclusive workplace results in innovative thinking and enhances how we do business. A broad array of perspectives and abilities is crucial to fostering dynamic relationships with a global, diverse client base.

Give Back

A commitment to the communities in which we do business helps ensure that those communities thrive. This, in turn, allows businesses to thrive. Give back and make philanthropy part of your company culture. Not only do the best people want to work for companies that give back, organizations want to do business with companies that embrace the communities that help them thrive.

Bottom line is a workplace that is focused on its social mission and responsibility is better for everyone, including those sitting in the office chairs today, tomorrow, and in the future. It is incumbent on us to ensure that our collective focus remains on “doing the right thing” — beyond the P&L. I think that you will be pleasantly surprised at how much the P&L benefits!




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Pete Cherecwich

Pete Cherecwich

‎President of Corporate & Institutional Services at Northern Trust Corporation

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