Responsible Finance Forum

Compartamos: Building institutional culture around a code of Ethics

Cara Forster
01 March 2010
Source:  The Smart Campaign

Staff ethics have been at the heart of Compartamos Banco’s institutional culture since its inception. Com-partamos began as an NGO in 1990, lending to women microentrepreneurs in Mexico. By 2006, the institution had transformed from an NGO into a commercial bank. Although it now has 1.2 million clients and its staff has nearly quadrupled to almost 6,000, the bank always maintained a spirited institutional culture.

Compartamos established a formal Code of Ethics in 2004. The Code is a comprehensive document that addresses many of The Smart Campaign’s Client Protection Principles, including ethical behavior,appropriate collections practices, and confidentiality of client information. The Code is built around a set of six institutional values, including Responsibility, Passion, Profitability,Teamwork, and Service. At the core of these values is the Person and the idea that each person, whether an employee or a client, is valuable to an integrated whole.

A Code of Ethics, however, has little effect if the institution does not take steps to ensure it is fully institutionalized. This is why shortly after adopting the Code, Compartamos created a suite of interconnected good practices that transformed the Code into a living document within the institution.