Character Virtues in Business and Finance

We collaborated with the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues (University of Birmingham) on a research project to explore what virtues and attributes are prized and upheld by ICAEW members and what they associate with the ideal professional for chartered accountants.

The Virtuous Character in Business and Finance project is one of three projects of the Jubilee Centre that explores the ethics of professionals. It examines what business school students and business and finance professionals say about character and virtues in the business and finance professions, and the extent to which such students and professionals draw on virtue-based reasoning when confronted with ethical dilemmas.

Over 250 ICAEW members contributed to our research by completing an online survey or taking part in in-depth interviews.

The Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues is a pioneering interdisciplinary research centre at the University of Birmingham, focussing on character, virtues and values in the interest of human flourishing. The Centre promotes a moral concept of character in order to explore the importance of virtue for public and professional life. The Centre is a leading informant on policy and practice in this area and through its extensive range of projects contributes to a renewal of character virtues in both individuals and societies.

Report Launch

The Character Virtues in Business and Finance research report was launched on 27th September 2017 at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, London. Drawing on insights from business schools, students, and practitioners, the interdisciplinary report examines character and virtues in the business and finance professions, and the extent to which such students and alumni draw on virtue-based reasoning when confronted with ethical dilemmas.

Summary of Key Findings

  • While aspirations to serve the common good were mentioned intermittently by participants as a motivation to pursue business, financial aspirations were more prominent.
  • Honesty was much less prevalent as a valued character strength required in business amongst interviewed students.
  • Virtue-based reasoning was prevalent among business school alumni for adjudicating workplace dilemmas.

Summary of Recommendations

  • The incorporation of real-life moral dilemmas into business ethics education will help facilitate links between moral theory and real business conduct.
  • Lecturers should be made aware of their abilities to turn lectures into acts of moral empowerment and students should be taught how to seek and design their own moral development.
  • Professional bodies are encouraged to exert greater pressure on business schools to adapt their curricula to the explicitly expressed needs of the current business world for virtuous business practices.