Even money work is not only about money. The global market of finance is, just like any other economic system, not only driven by a strict profit-calculus but is also a cultural field that relies on narratives, involves symbolic struggles and demands ethical position taking. Although bankers historically struggle with the stigma of being maniacally obsessed with profit and also recent studies confirmed that a culture of toxic masculinity, short term thinking and teflonic identity formation still characterizes finance. It is simultaneously an economic field that is under much public scrutiny and wherein moral work continuously happens. We explore the moral background of finance by mapping out how financial firms deal with their social role, advertise their cultural values and deal with employee diversity.
Moral rebranding and isomorphism: a network approach to the diffusion of cultural values and morality in the global field of finance
The world of banking and finance historically struggles with a moral stigma. This situation exacerbated over the last two decades as a result of a period of financial crashes (2008 – 2012) and consecutive waves of fraudulent banking practices coming to light. Subsequently, trust in finance plummeted drastically the first quarter of the 21st century. And although, confidence has restored a little, it remains historically low with large national variations. Survey research shows that while European citizens remain in a mistrusting relationship with their banks, the vast majority of Asian consumers kept their faith in the financial sector.
When it comes to identifying the roots of this moral deficiency, the supposedly toxic corporate culture in finance is regularly nominated as the main culprit of the story. Consequently, to morally rebrand themselves, finance firms need to display willingness and effort to revise this problematic organizational culture. This can happen in a multitude of ways, but one evident strategy is by attracting employees with alternative ethical mindsets. In order to do so, financial firms need to deflect this historical moral stigma and ethically reposition themselves. However, this moral reconversion can take many directions leading to the questions (1) which cultural and moral values are now being advertised to potential employees and (2) what determines the diffusion of such moral rebranding?
Although public pressures on the field of finance are an important factor in this process, financial institutions are also embedded in a network of organizations that is determined by its own logics, dynamics and power balances. Relying on neo-institutional and network analysis frameworks, this paper investigates how moral branding of the field of finance is driven by companies isomorphing in accordance to their direct organizational environment.
To operationalize moral branding towards future employees, we coded the websites of a random sample of finance firms (banking, insurance and investment firms) ranked on the Fortune 1000 list (N: 120 firms, 33 countries). As a proxy for organizational morality we focused on cultural values that are emphasized and listed, the employee volunteering programs and their use of altruistic idioms on their career pages. On the basis of network analysis of board memberships, employee relations and other organizational data, we are able to reconstruct the way the field of finance is configured. This allows us to test whether the adaptation of certain cultural and moral values is co-determined by network position in the field or whether external factors such as country values, media coverage or involvement in fraud plays a more defining role. The findings show that integrity is highly valued among most firms, but that other values follow a strong center-periphery pattern. We see that US firms are leading in voluntary-programs and altruistic framing. Finally, preliminary results indicate that network position plays a more significant role than field external factors such as country values or media coverage.
by Kobe De Keere, Diliara Valeeva, Luisa Burchartz and Svetlana Kharchenkova
Logics of diversity in the world of money: analysis of diversity talk in the global field of finance