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Key to Reducing Fraud in Banks? More Women on Boards

Bessie LiuFeatures
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Banks with more women on boards are less likely to commit fraud. Image Source: Shutterstock.

Banks’ reputations for ethical and professional misconduct have been in sharp decline over the years.

As such, preventing Bank fraud has become a priority for many private institutions and policymakers.

And according to a study by the Center for Banking Research at Cass Business School, getting more women on executive boards could be the solution.

The study found that banks with more women on their boards were less likely to commit fraud. Researchers controlled multiple factors, including fines received in previous years, the board size, tenure, age and other types of diversity. Still, results showed that women majority boards ultimately resulted in better-behaved banks.

"The result was clear and moderately strong. The financial institutions with greater female representation on their boards were fined less often and less significantly," Barbara Casu, professor of banking at Cass Business School, said in an interview with the Harvard Business Review.

It is estimated that the world's largest banks received fines amounting to £264 billion between 2012 and 2016. Last year, financial services company Wells Fargo agreed to pay $3B in settlement fees following a scandal that revealed between 2002 and 2016 its employees were opening and using accounts with customers' names without their knowledge.

Investment banking company Deutsche Bank was fined more than $700M in 2017 for allowing money laundering. Then in 2019, the bank allowed the processing of billions of euros for a bank that was entangled in a money-laundering scandal.

Banking misconduct is not something that affects financial institutions alone, with its ripple effects negatively impacting society as a whole. The Cass Business School study suggests that women are more risk-averse than men, and are nurtured to be more caring and accommodating in comparison to their male counterparts.

Women are also more likely to be harshly punished than men for similar mishaps, one of the many challenges women face in the workplace due to the 'glass ceiling'. Because of this, women are likely This is likely to result in them being to be more vigilant in the workplace, as consequences for not speaking up may be more severe.

"We're not arguing that women are better than men — simply that they bring a different skill set and contribute to better monitoring and risk management," Casu said.

"We looked at billions of dollars in fines for egregious schemes in an industry that's more dominated by men than any other and found this positive effect with gender diversity at the board level. That's all we're saying.”

Casu suggests that tokenism in the workplace is unlikely to lead to changes. Her research shows that it is necessary to have at least three women on a board before typical dynamics are challenged.

"We also found that the effect is even stronger when you have both female directors and women in executive positions at banks,” she said. “We think that gender diversity in both areas is critical."

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