• Introduction
  • SEE impact areas
    • 1.
    • 2.
    • 3.
    • 4.
    • 5.
    • 6.
  • ESG
  • Transformation
Promoting sound governance and integrity

The group social and ethics committee is responsible for ensuring that we act ethically in relation to internal and external stakeholders, and society more broadly.

The committee meets quarterly and includes executive and non-executive directors. Key issues discussed by the committee during 2018 included progress on embedding an ethical culture in Standard Bank; group-wide principles for stakeholder engagement; measures to accelerate gender and racial transformation within South Africa, and gender equity across the group; effectiveness of group policies and processes to minimise instances and support the victims of discrimination and sexual harassment; issues raised by environmental and social rights groups; and employee wellbeing.

Client risk committeesClient risk committees

operate in each of the business units to address client risk management matters. These committees include specific consideration of ethical considerations. The bank may choose to exit a client relationship based on consideration of commercial factors, contractual obligations to the client, compliance, reputational and other risk considerations.

Our supplier risk committee
oversees supplier relationships, including risks arising from the ethical behaviour of suppliers, as well as financial crime and reputational risks including conflicts of interest, anti-competitive practices and human rights violations. A new third-party risk management framework has been approved by the group risk oversight committee.

Our group procurement policyOur group procurement policy

is based on the matrix operating model of the organisation. All procurement transactions must be objective, transparent and fair, in line with sound corporate governance principles, and the highest procurement and ethical standards must be applied to all such transactions. We require all our suppliers to respect basic human rights and establish a clean and safe working environment. This includes not allowing forced labour, child labour or discrimination, and paying appropriate wages, regulating working hours and respecting everyone’s freedom of association. Suppliers, consultants and contractors to the bank must comply with all the environmental and social legislation applicable, and they must follow good environmental and social practice that applies to their sector and to the goods or services supplied. The bank strives to procure goods and services that have a lesser or reduced impact on the environment and on the health and safety of workers and communities.

Privacy and confidentialityPrivacy and confidentiality

are core to the way we do business. We are committed to protecting client information, and adhere to the relevant codes and regulations, including South Africa’s Code of Banking Practice. Standard Bank’s data privacy policy provides for measures to ensure that the group processes personal information in a lawful and responsible manner. These measures, together with other relevant policies, inform the security safeguards necessary to protect personal information from unlawful and unauthorised access, use, destruction or loss. These measures cover all processing activities within the group. South Africa’s Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) has been a driver for the implementation of further controls to protect client privacy. We are well prepared to meet the requirements of POPIA, and the European General Data Protection Regulation in the relevant jurisdictions. Our privacy statement and Standard Bank South Africa Limited’s Privacy statement is published on the following websites: www.standardbank.com and www.standardbank.co.za

Employees and other stakeholders can seek advice or report concerns about unethical or unlawful behaviour anonymously. Information on our policy and processes for whistle-blowing is readily available to all employees. Employees have access to an independent, confidential whistle-blowing hotline. They are actively encouraged to make use of this should they feel that the group’s values or code of ethics is being compromised. Standard Bank commits to protecting employees who whistle blow in accordance with the procedures set out in our whistleblowing policy.

Our values

serve as beacons for the behaviour and qualities that define us as we execute our strategy.

Being proactive
Growing our people
Constantly raising the bar
Working in teams
Delivering to our stakeholders
Respecting each other
Serving our clients
Upholding the highest levels of integrity
Our values-driven culture

Our culture is ‘the way we do things’. Our work to shift our culture for the better recognises that how we do things is as important as the things we do. Our culture is determined by our purpose, vision, values and our approach to ethics. Our code of ethics guides us to be responsible and respectful in our dealings with all our stakeholders as we work to become Africa’s leading financial services organisation. It outlines acceptable business conduct and is an important reference point for employees acting on behalf of Standard Bank. These clearly defined parameters empower us to make faster, more confident decisions that have the interests of our clients, and the people of Africa, at heart.

We are focusing on three critical behaviours that will shift our culture and make the biggest difference in supporting our strategic journey:

  • Connect every team’s work to the group’s larger purpose of serving our clients with integrity.
  • Create common goals across different areas and follow through urgently.
  • Enable people to take ownership of their work and help to remove obstacles.
Our code of ethics addresses the following:
  • Treating customers fairly
  • Engaging in political activities responsibly
  • Honesty
  • Providing secure banking facilities
  • Protecting intellectual property
  • Addressing conflicts of interest
  • Providing professional development opportunities
  • Avoiding anti-competitive behaviour
  • Combating unethical and criminal activities
  • Evaluating performance objectively
  • Rewarding innovation
  • Prohibiting giving and receiving of bribes
  • Sustainable value creation for shareholders
  • Adhering to good corporate governance
  • Working in unity
  • Prohibiting facilitation payments
  • Respecting human dignity
  • Responsibly giving and receiving gifts
  • Protecting our physical assets

The chairman and the board set the ethical tone for the group. The board, through the relevant board committees, provides oversight of the group’s activities, assesses adherence to our values and ethics, and monitors compliance with regulatory and legislative requirements, based on reporting by executive management, internal auditors and external auditors on measures implemented to ensure compliance with regulatory and legislative requirements. The group chief executive, together with the chief ethics officer, are responsible for embedding the group’s values and code of ethics across the group. They are supported by business unit ethics officers at an operational level.

Standard Bank’s code of ethics is informed by relevant anti-corruption and corporate governance legislation in our countries of operation, globally recognised standards, including the King IV Code of Governance, industry best practice, and Standard Bank’s eight corporate values. It is certified by the Ethics Institute of South Africa as conforming to the highest standards of international best practice. Our code of ethics is integrated into our governance standards and policies, our group-wide conduct programme, and our compliance training programmes. It applies to all our banking operations and is aligned to group standards, policies and procedures. It is currently published in English, French and Portuguese.

Our code of ethics and our group values serve as the primary reference for employees when resolving any ethical issue. Our employee handbook, which is available online to all employees, sets out our policies, principles and ways of working, and has a section devoted to our code of ethics and culture. Our values and ethics also form part of our employee performance management system.

All new employees are inducted into our ethics culture as part of our employee orientation programme. Internal employee engagement mechanisms are used to deliver ongoing communication on our ethics stance and culture. All employees are required to complete an online training course on our code of ethics, on an annual basis. Course content is regularly updated and incorporates learning from real incidents.


Standard Bank Group’s conduct risk framework uses a culture-led strategy to achieve the culture, ethics and conduct we expect to see from our employees. We’ve put in place effective governance structures with clear responsibility and oversight to promote fair and effective customer outcomes. The board and senior management play a prominent role in supporting awareness and embedding conduct standards.

Since launching our treating customers fairly (TCF) programme in July 2014, we’ve undertaken a significant amount of work to embed the TCF principles. This work is based on sound tenets of business ethics and is aligned to our values. As part of the evolution of the TCF journey, we have strengthened our governance environment with the institutionalisation of our conduct risk management framework. The framework defines the group’s conduct risk appetite and informs our approach to identify, assess and manage conduct risk through enhanced reporting and monitoring that considers fair customer outcomes in material business decisions.

Different areas across the group are required to complete monthly conduct dashboards, which are submitted to the relevant group management committee. Conduct dashboards monitor indicators related to conduct culture and governance. The dashboards include metrics related to employee turnover, absenteeism, registration of gifts and entertainment, personal account trading, declaration of outside business interests, data privacy and protection, and client complaints. They provide a barometer of a significant dimension of the prevailing ethical climate. All business units and corporate functions submit their conduct dashboards to group executive committee on a quarterly basis.

Our conflicts of interest policy forms part of our conflicts of interest management framework. The policy is aimed at ensuring that Standard Bank and all our employees comply with the applicable statutory and regulatory obligations by ensuring that all reasonable steps have been taken to prevent or fairly manage potential conflicts of interest, and thereby mitigate the effect that such conflicts could have on our clients, as well as the bank. The policy reflects the minimum requirements that need to be adhered to, to ensure that all reasonable steps are taken to prevent conflicts of interest from constituting or giving rise to a material risk of damage to the interests of our clients. It also serves to ensure that there are processes, procedures and mechanisms in place to identify, prevent or manage conflicts of interest to:

  • Ensure the fair treatment of clients
  • Maintain a sound financial environment
  • Ensure that conflicts of interest are managed fairly
  • Prevent the misuse of Need to Know information, and
  • Protect the good reputation of the Standard Bank Group and the industry.

Our money laundering and terrorist financing control framework and structures for managing our money laundering and terrorist financing risk are designed and maintained to ensure compliance with Financial Action Task Force recommendations and in-country legislative requirements in all jurisdictions.

Isabel Lawrence
Isabel Lawrence
“The process of embedding good conduct is underpinned by the group’s code of ethics and values. The group holds itself and its stakeholders to high ethical standards and will continue to focus on doing the right business in the right way, by balancing sustainable returns for our stakeholders with fair client outcomes and good business practices.”


The South African Financial Intelligence Centre Act has been amended to incorporate a risk-based approach to compliance in relation to the anti money laundering/combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regulatory framework. This includes the requirement to develop, document, maintain and implement a risk management and compliance programme that must demonstrate the group’s ability to effectively apply a risk-based approach.

Our money laundering control policy and our financial sanctions and terrorist financing policy comply with applicable statutory and regulatory obligations and ensure that:

  • The risks arising from money laundering, terrorist financing (ML/TF) and financial sanctions are well understood, mitigated and proactively managed;
  • Standard Bank’s reputation and integrity is protected by taking all reasonable steps to prevent its use for ML/TF and the circumvention of financial sanctions; and
  • A framework is established that will enable the recognition, investigation and reporting of suspicious activity and all reportable transactions to competent authorities.

Standard Bank manages our anti-bribery and corruption (ABC) risk in accordance with the Organisation for Economic Co‑operation and Development’s Guidance for Multinational Enterprises. Oversight of ABC is provided through the bribery and corruption review committee. An ABC risk assessment for the group was completed in 2018 and presented to the group social and ethics committee. Specialised training has been developed for areas that are perceived as being more susceptible to risk of bribery and corruption.

Our ABC policy ensures compliance with applicable statutory and regulatory obligations. It commits us to:

Prohibit bribery and corruption and ensure that an anti-bribery and corruption culture is established and maintained
Conduct business in accordance with our values and code of ethics
Conduct business with integrity, transparency, openness and in compliance with applicable laws
Establish and maintain reasonable and proportionate measures to prevent bribery and corruption, and to detect, report, monitor and respond appropriately to any incidents that may occur

We’ve introduced several automated solutions across our countries of operation to improve efficiency in money laundering control and declaring outside business interests.

All Standard Bank employees must complete compulsory compliance training, which is available online and can be accessed via a computer or mobile device. Training uses case studies and course assessments and provides immediate feedback. We also hold regular ‘compliance conversations’ with a wider audience across the bank, including topics such as anti-bribery and corruption, anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism, conflicts of interest and riskbased approaches to compliance documented in compliance policies.

We track fines and penalties issued against the group to assist us to identify problems areas that need attention and to implement appropriate remedial action.


Regulatory and compliance risk
Our executives, senior management and compliance teams work together to reinforce a compliance culture across the group. This encompasses our approach to business risk conduct, dealing with client risk and personal conduct risk. Group compliance assists in ensuring that we continuously manage our regulatory, supervisory and conduct risk. Group internal audit provides independent, objective assurance and advice to improve risk management, control and governance processes. Group governance and group compliance ensure that we meet our regulatory requirements in terms of Banks Act requirements, company law, financial sector regulation and corporate governance. We have expanded our compliance capability over the past year and have worked closely with middle management to emphasise its role in driving a culture of compliance at all levels across the group.

Our combined assurance model includes group internal audit, group compliance monitoring and integrated operational risk, which together ensure a coordinated approach to providing assurance on whether top risks are effectively managed in the group.

The Standard Bank Group audit committee is responsible for:

Monitoring and reviewing the adequacy and effectiveness of accounting policies, financial and other internal control systems and financial reporting processes
Providing independent oversight of the group’s assurance functions, with focus on combined assurance arrangements, including external audit, internal audit, compliance, risk and internal financial and other internal control systems and financial reporting processes
Reviewing the independence and effectiveness of the group’s external audit, internal audit and compliance function
Assessing the group’s compliance with applicable legal, regulatory and accounting standards and policies in the preparation of fairly presented financial statements and external reports, thus providing independent oversight of the integrity thereof. Committee composition, skills and experience

Environmental and social risk
The board’s responsibility for environmental and social (E&S) risk management oversight is delegated to the group risk and capital management committee, which has delegated functional E&S risk responsibility to the group risk oversight committee. This committee is responsible for ensuring effective E&S risk management in line with the bank’s risk appetite, and overseeing the processes implemented by business unit risk committees and mandated forums. The group environmental and social risk and finance (GESRF) team is responsible for ensuring that environmental and social risks are identified, evaluated and managed and that green, social and carbon financing opportunities are identified and pursued.

Standard Bank’s new E&S risk governance standard, adopted in March 2018, provides the principles under which we identify, measure, manage and report on environmental and social risk. The E&S risk governance standard aims to ensure that Standard Bank upholds its commitment to manage and mitigate negative environmental and social impacts arising from our activities, support conscious risk-taking, and enable the development and implementation of solutions with positive social and environmental impacts. It covers all forms of environmental and social risk, and applies across Standard Bank globally, while acknowledging differences in economic and social priorities and regulatory, compliance and legal frameworks in different geographies. The E&S risk governance standard will be reviewed and updated every two years to reflect changes in the bank’s strategy or to address new and emerging environmental and social perspectives.

The E&S risk governance standard is supported by the group’s revised E&S policy, also adopted in March 2018. The policy applies to the group globally and covers all legal entities across our countries of operation, with the objective of ensuring that all our operations effectively assess and manage E&S risk associated with all business transactions, irrespective of size, nature of business or location. The policy is primarily applicable to business, commercial and corporate clients, and includes our main financing products such as project finance, commercial debt and equity, short-term banking facilities and trade finance. The E&S policy is supported by the exceptions list.

View a list of Standard Bank Group policies


Strengthening democracy through political party funding, South Africa

Since 2004, Standard Bank has sought to strengthen democracy and political participation in South Africa through our democracy support programme.
The programme
The programme is reviewed by the group social and ethics committee every five years. Political parties require funding to organise, formulate policy proposals, conduct research, prepare for Parliamentary debates, represent their members’ interests and effectively compete in free and fair elections. Standard Bank provides funding to parties represented in the National Assembly using a funding formula based on that implemented by the Independent Electoral Commission: 10% of the annual disbursement amount is divided equally between all parties represented in the National Assembly, and 90% is assigned in proportion to the number of seats held by each party.
Representatives of the bank meet with the leadership of each party on an annual basis to receive a report on how funds were used, and to discuss matters of mutual interest. In 2018, Standard Bank South Africa allocated R2.6 million to funding political parties.
The bank
The bank also provides funding to research organisations and organised business, which play an important role in supporting evidence-based policymaking; supporting a conducive and sustainable business environment; promoting transformation and inclusive growth; and supporting social dialogue. In 2018, we disbursed R5.5 million to these organisations, in varying amounts.