The approved banker's oath is a missed opportunity

20 March 2019 - 3 min Reading time

The Finance Committee approved a bill proposed by Groen and Ecolo yesterday that seeks to introduce a banker's oath in Belgium. Febelfin regrets this decision.


The banker's oath mainly targets bank employees rather than the banks themselves. It adds a new layer of sanctions, bodies, and procedures to a supervisory framework and a range of sanctions that were already quite extensive. Therefore, the proposal is a missed opportunity to strengthen the culture and ethics in the financial sector with truly substantive measures, as we had suggested," said Febelfin CEO Karel Van Eetvelt.

It is also important for Febelfin to further strengthen trust in the financial sector. Therefore, Febelfin had proposed the establishment of a Council for Good Practices in the financial sector. This independent body would systematically review the integrity policies of financial institutions. However, the Chamber Committee did not thoroughly examine this alternative.

The proposal has far-reaching consequences for personnel


Febelfin is concerned that the proposal to introduce a banker's oath will have far-reaching consequences for bank employees. The oath has a purely punitive approach that mainly targets bank personnel. Those who make a professional misconduct can face disciplinary sanctions, which can even lead to a lifelong professional ban.

In the Netherlands, which already has a banker's oath, four-fifths of the convictions result from complaints by banks against their own employees. These are mainly violations for which banks in Belgium already sanction their staff, such as theft or improper use of personal data.

Febelfin is especially disappointed that the Chamber Committee completely disregards the proposals that the sector worked on for a year with the approval of the bill. Furthermore, the Committee did not seek advice from the Council of State, the National Bank of Belgium, and the Financial Services and Markets Authority (FSMA).

The proposal discriminates against bank employees


Karel Van Eetvelt, CEO of Febelfin: "We have serious concerns about the constitutionality of the proposal. For instance, the proposal discriminates against bank employees compared to employees of other financial institutions, such as financial planners or brokerage firms. To illustrate: Optima was largely a financial planner. The proposal also discriminates against bank employees compared to employees of independent bank agents. So, you could be served by an employee who has taken the banker's oath at one bank and by an employee who hasn't at another bank. Is that good for consumers?"

"The sector had proposed the creation of an independent Council for Good Practices in the financial sector. This council would review the integrity policies of financial institutions. In England, this already exists and substantively strengthens the integrity policies of banks."

Febelfin notes that if the bill is passed by the full Chamber, it will only come into effect after consultation with the sector. "This proposal is a missed opportunity. We trust that after the elections, we will have the chance to convince policymakers that the alternatives proposed by the sector are more efficient in strengthening the culture in the financial sector.