One of MidWestOne’s core operating principles is to “always conduct yourself with the utmost integrity.” This operating principle has been in place, with slightly different wording, since the bank’s founding in 1934. It’s not something we have ever taken lightly and we must get this right 100 percent of the time in order to maintain our customers’ trust.
That introductory paragraph is written as I reflect on the recent scandal that has come to light at Volkswagen. For those who have not followed the scandal, briefly, it revolves around technology that overstated miles per gallon readings in diesel engines in VW cars. Without these inflated mileage readings, it is my understanding that VW would not have been compliant with U.S. emission standards unless time frames were extended and budgets were “busted.”
In other words, to my novice eyes, VW made a manufacturing miscalculation and compounded it with intricate technology that hid a flaw in its process.Not only that, but a Wall Street Journal investigation suggests that the problems may go back to 2004, when VW failed to disclose relevant emissions information to the State of California. While VW has suspended at least nine managers who are suspected of wrongdoing, one has to wonder if there are more shoes to drop.
That led me to wonder: just what does being a company of integrity actually mean? I will suggest something that I recently read that resonated with me. “Ethical companies” are comprised of ethical employees doing their jobs each day with integrity.
Yes, the tone at the top is very important and cannot be underestimated. Senior executives cannot preach one message and then act otherwise. But it’s deeper than that. The message has to be frequently conveyed that ethical shortcuts are not tolerated.
In some areas of any business, there are clear definitions between right and wrong. When an employee deliberately acts in an unethical manner, the consequences are normally swift and decisive. That sends a fine message to the rank and file that integrity is of paramount importance.
Business ethics start at the top, but should not stop there. Over time, good hiring decisions will produce a large group of devoted employees who will “say something if they see something.” One must wonder what the culture must have been at VW to have had such a large and embarrassing scandal surface and continue for many years.
Always act with the utmost integrity. At MidWestOne, we will continue to preach this operating principle and ensure that all our employees are living it day in and day out. We have no other choice.