EDITORIAL: Bank row clarifies why transparency and trust are vital

nullIt was clearly never a match made in heaven. On one side was the Bank of Scotland, looking for a partner to help it break into the tele-banking market in America. On the other was TV evangelist Pat Robertson, known for his outspoken views on everything from homosexuality to abortion to working mothers. Here’s a taste of his wisdom. Speaking about the American Planned Parenthood birth-control programme, he claimed its goal was ’to have adultery, every kind of bestiality, homosexuality, lesbianism’. In a similar vein, he regarded an equal rights amendment to legislation in the state of Iowa as ’a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians’.

It was clearly never a match made in heaven. On one side was the

Bank of Scotland, looking for a partner to help it break into the

tele-banking market in America. On the other was TV evangelist Pat

Robertson, known for his outspoken views on everything from

homosexuality to abortion to working mothers. Here’s a taste of his

wisdom. Speaking about the American Planned Parenthood birth-control

programme, he claimed its goal was ’to have adultery, every kind of

bestiality, homosexuality, lesbianism’. In a similar vein, he regarded

an equal rights amendment to legislation in the state of Iowa as ’a

socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to

leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy

capitalism and become lesbians’.



From the moment the joint venture was announced there was concern and

anger among many of the bank’s customers. But the bank had its eye fixed

on the 55 million viewing congregation that give their faith, and cash,

to Robertson’s TV church. It saw a lucrative and loyal customer base

ready for the taking.



The bank resisted the criticism of some of its major customers until

last week, when Robertson’s comments crossed the line. This time he went

too far; he attacked Scotland. It was vintage stuff. He was quoted as

saying: ’In Europe, the big word is tolerance. Homosexuals are riding

high in the media ... and in Scotland, you can’t believe how strong the

homosexuals are. It’s just simply unbelievable, it (Scotland) could go

right back to the darkness very easily.’



The end for the deal between Bank of Scotland and Pat Robertson came

soon after. And rightly so. Large and valued customers in Scotland and

the UK had threatened to vote with their feet against the deal, and the

bank should have listened to them from the first. The saga also shows

clearly what some new research released last week suggested; that

commerce does not operate in a social vacuum, and that the issue of

corporate citizenship is one all business must address.



The research (reported in last week’s issue) was carried out by the

Consumers’ Association, Future Foundation and Richmond Events. It was

unveiled at the Communications Directors’ Forum event held last month.

Reaction from the audience of corporate communication chiefs was less

than enthusiastic.



This was partly because the sample of 2000 people were all members of

the CA - a more politicised and complaint-prone group than the general

public.



It was also partly because the results reflected the kind of prejudices

you might expect from the CA. The most trusted brands were the likes of

the BBC and Marks & Spencer, with big international players such as

Microsoft and Nike performing poorly. But the argument that underpins

the research is a strong one. Companies and brands will have to do more

to seek positive associations with the communities in which they

operate. Trust and transparency will become key issues for growth and

development. Consumers are demanding it.



It is a lesson the Bank of Scotland has had to learn the hard way.