The financial sector has shown itself to be stubbornly unresponsive to Government regulation and to a variety of self-regulatory models that have been tried. The Global Financial Crisis has been described as a failure of ethics or values. It has led to a reduction in trust and confidence in the institutions of finance. This project explores whether the ethos and conduct standards of the professions, the training and competence and commitment to clients, the public interest and peers, could make a difference. In short it explores whether the structures, practices, beliefs and expectations of professions could act as a regulatory strategy to improve the conduct and hence trust in, the institutions of finance.
While the project starts with the challenges of the financial sector, it also explores other professional groups as well. The twenty-first century has presented professionals with a number of serious challenges that most share. For example professions based in obligations of selfless conduct to the client and serving the peer and public interest, are challenged by the efficiency values of corporations and organisational managerialism. Globalisation of professional organisation and the pace of innovation also provide ambiguity where once there was more homogeneous acceptance of professional ethics and their practice. So our analysis of professionalism as a technique or strategy of regulation can extend beyond the financial sector and include law, accounting, built environment and even the medical profession. Many of the insights may possibly extend to industry associations that have aspirations to professionalism. The objective of our project is to test these ideas and see how far they can advance the knowledge of professionalism as a regulatory strategy that might do better than, or combine with, other regulatory approaches.
The program of research is being carried out through an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant which is also generously funded by the Professional Standards Councils of Australia as our main linkage partner. We also have linkage partners who contribute to the resources of the grant, being the law firms Allens and Corrs. While the grant is led and administered at the University of New South Wales it has participants from the UK, North America and from several Australian Universities as well as professional firms. The details of these participants can be seen within the 'Key Researchers' box.