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Abbey returns to first principles

June 1999

Abbey National, the UK’s fifth largest bank, is to send every employee a statement of principles and a guide to whistleblowing.

The bank will mail the new documents to staff within the next few weeks as part of its continuing effort to make sure they understand its ethical and social policies.

Abbey’s head of public affairs, Joel Feyerherm, said the documents had been produced as separate initiatives but were being sent out together because of their complementary nature.

‘They’re linked in the sense that the statement of principles is really the bedrock for the whistleblowing advice,’ he said. ‘People need to have a good understanding of the company’s guiding principles so they know what constitutes something to blow the whistle about. We needed to codify things for the whistleblowing side, but we also needed to produce something that is understandable and accessible.’

Feyerherm said that the 12-page statement of principles, which has been produced internally with board level involvement, will contain no new policies but aims ‘to pull together all our different codes and put them in one place.’ It addresses all major stakeholder groups, including the wider banking industry, customers, employees and suppliers – and will also set out policies on the investment of company assets.

In a high profile case that ended in 1997, Abbey National employee Gary Brown exposed a fraudulent invoice racket at the company. Brown has since publicised the value of whistleblowing in conjunction with the campaign group Public Concern at Work.

Feyerherm said the bank had been mindful of the new Public Interest Disclosure Act, which, when it comes into force in July, will protect workers who expose wrongdoings. But it was also aware of its reputation as a company with a solid ethical base. Abbey National is the single most popular investment among ethical fund managers, according to research published in January by the Ethical Investment Research Service.




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