Eika Boligkreditt AS (EBK) is dependent on trust and a good reputation. A great responsibility accordingly rests both on the company and on the individual employee to behave ethically towards customers, owner banks, investors, partners, colleagues and the world at large. The purpose of this document is to describe EBK’s ethical standards.
All employees must behave and work in compliance with applicable legislation, statutory regulations and internal guidelines. They are all expected to do their job in an ethical and socially acceptable manner, and in line with the company’s core values of being professional, involving and long-term.
No unambiguous answer exists to the question of what behaviour will be ethically acceptable in given circumstances. A possible guideline is that the following questions should be answered with an unqualified “no”:
- Would I dislike it if this became known to the management or my colleagues at work?
- Could this in any way undermine trust in EBK or the alliance were it to be reported in the media?
- Could the action conflict with the interests I am charged with protecting as an employee of EBK, or be perceived as a benefit I am receiving by virtue of my position?
WHO IS SUBJECT TO THE GUIDELINES?
These guidelines apply to the company and to all employees in EBK. They also apply to directors and others with an elective office, contract personnel, consultants and others acting on behalf of EBK (hereafter employees, etc). The guidelines apply to ethical issues related to commercial practice, risk-based thinking and personal behaviour.
The individual employee, etc, undertakes to familiarise themselves and comply with the ethical guidelines, and has an independent responsibility to behave in a manner which accords with them. If an employee is in doubt as to whether an action accords with the ethical guidelines, they must refrain from that action or raise the matter with their immediate superior.
THE WORKPLACE AND COMMERCIAL BEHAVIOUR
EBK wants to have a strong culture which promotes risk-based thinking. This is reflected in the company’s strategy, where the business concept builds on the company ensuring – in part through high-quality risk management – long-term and competitive financing for the owner banks, and thereby reducing risk for the latter.
The company’s management and control parameters will lay the basis for the desired risk culture.
GOOD COMMUNICATION AND TRANSPARENCY
The company is dependent on good communication in order to establish a good working environment and to lay the basis for good decisions. That means honesty and clarity and a high degree of openness. Representatives of EBK are expected to use clear and simple language in all their contact with the owner banks, end customers, investors and partners. Openness must not be pursued at the expense of the necessary confidentiality.
The basic rule is that the chief executive will deal with the media on matters concerning the company. However, the chief executive can decide that the matter will be dealt with by others. The chief executive can appoint other senior executives to comment, for example, on the company’s transactions, funding work and so forth. The chief executive is responsible for ensuring that clear parameters are established for dealing with the media.
What we do in EBK must be able to bear close scrutiny. It is therefore important to document assessments in order to be in a position to account for the choices made and decisions taken.
Reporting to the authorities and rating agencies must ensure transparency and is conducted in accordance with legislation, industry standards and the company’s policies related to reporting. Complete, accurate and objective reporting is important for maintaining the reputation of and trust in the company.
DUTY OF CONFIDENTIALITY
Confidentiality is an important precondition for trust. Rules on the duty of confidentiality are intended to ensure than confidential information is not misused or goes astray.
Employees have a duty of confidentiality concerning matters they become acquainted with relating to customers and internal conditions in EBK. Acquiring and storing confidential information must accordingly be done in a way which minimises the threat of the information being disseminated. The duty of confidentiality also applies internally, which means employees are not permitted to give information to colleagues over and above what the latter need to know in order to do their job. The scope of the duty of confidentially is regulated in greater detail in a declaration of confidentiality, which new employees sign on their appointment.
Both the duty of confidentiality and the employee’s duty to act loyally indicate that internal conditions must not be discussed externally in a manner which comes across as disloyal or damaging for EBK or the alliance. The duty to act loyally also indicates that employees, etc, do not comment without justification about their employer or the business in a negative manner. The above does not prevent an employee’s right to blow the whistle if they learn of irregularities.
INTERNAL ALERT PROCEDURES
Openness and good communication in the organisation strengthen its work culture. EBK therefore wants to make provision for a corporate culture in which irregularities are raised, discussed and resolved. Internal alert procedures helps to reinforce an open culture characterised by trust and dialogue between non-managerial employees and management. EBK recognises the risk of breaches of its ethical guidelines, and depends on employees reporting irregularities so that the company can maintain a high ethical standard. All employees must be aware of, and if necessary utilise, the company’s guidelines for reporting irregularities.
DATA SECURITY AND PRIVACY
All employees must be familiar with the company’s guidelines for the use of information technology, including the ICT instructions and guidelines for information security. Caution must be displayed over how, where and with whom information is shared.
EBK primarily handles personal data about the company’s residential mortgagees and its own staff. Employees who deal with personal data must handle these in a way which protects privacy. They must be aware of and undertake to comply with the company’s guidelines and routines for dealing with personal data.
CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
The Eika Alliance comprises 69 local banks, Eika Gruppen and Eika Boligkreditt AS. As an important player in the Norwegian financial market, the alliance has a responsibility to be conscious of its corporate social responsibility (CSR). The banks take care of this by being an important contributor to their local communities. EBK can contribute as a player by making sustainable choices as a bond issuer. As an employee, etc, you must be conscious of the possible consequences of your behaviour and decisions for the environment. Environmental assessments and costs should be taken into account where they are relevant.
MEASURES AGAINST MONEY LAUNDERING AND FINANCING TERRORISM
As part of its CSR, EBK will have good measures in place against money laundering and financing terrorism. Their purpose is to protect the integrity and stability of the international financial system, undermine the funding of terrorism and make it more difficult for criminals to profit from their crimes. EBK has established parameters for measures to combat money laundering and financing terrorism in line with the legislation which applies in this area.
RESPECT, POLITENESS AND LOYALTY
All employees are expected to behave politely and respectfully to each other in order to create the best possible working environment, without negative conditions such as gossip, bullying and unreasonable pressure. EBK does not accept any form of harassment, discrimination or other behaviour which could be perceived as threatening or demeaning. It is also important to behave in a loyal manner, which means that EBK, the owner banks or Eika must not be referred to negatively or in a manner which does not accord with the alliance’s strategy and culture.
Representatives of EBK are expected to use clear and simple language in all their contact with the owner banks, end customers, investors and partners.
Managers in the company have a particular responsibility where ethical issues are concerned. They must be very conscious of themselves and their own actions, while behaving in such a way that no employee is given justifiable grounds for feeling bad about their treatment or breaches to approved rules and norms.
FINANCIAL ASPECTS AND TRADING IN FINANCIAL INSTRUMENTS
The private financial affairs of employees must be orderly. Employees or their close associates must not receive loans from EBK except on market terms. They must not personally carry out transactions or make changes to their own loan accounts or to loan accounts where they are a joint holder. The same applies to loan accounts belonging to close associates.
Employees must not conduct commercial activities which compete with EBK or businesses in the Eika Alliance. Nor may they conduct other private commercial activities or be a responsible partner or director in companies which conduct such activities without obtaining special permission. Employees are also prohibited from having paid work outside the company without obtaining special permission.
EBK takes a positive view of employees accepting voluntary offices in associations and societies, for example, as long as this is not at the expense of their work for the company.
EBK has in the guidelines for handling of conflicts of interest set up certain restrictions on employees trading in financial instruments. This in order to achieve compliance with the above, as well as to avoid potential conflicts of interest and to ensure that the company and its employees comply with applicable rules relating to securities trading (hereunder insider trading). Employees shall not act in conflict with these guidelines.
Pursuant to chapter 26 of the Norwegian criminal code, fraud, misappropriation of funds and aiding and abetting such actions are criminal offences. Furthermore, corruption, trading in influence and aiding and abetting such actions are criminal offences pursuant to section 276, sub-sections a-c, of the criminal code.
Should an employee, etc, discover or have a justifiable suspicion that somebody in EBK’s service is involved in financial crime, they are duty-bound to report this to a superior.
No employee may give or receive any form of improper benefit – directly or indirectly – in connection with EBK’s financial transactions. An improper benefit could be financial or take the form of some other beneficial value. These guidelines apply equally to gifts to close associates if the gift or benefit must be considered to be based on the employment status of the employee.
Particular caution must be shown in connection with road shows, investor or broker contacts, offers or negotiations, and/or transactions.
Anyone who is uncertain where the boundaries run can raise this with their immediate superior. Examples from appendix 1 can be used as an aid in assessing what constitutes improper benefits. Employees must be open about gifts received, and gifts and benefits which fall into the category “Need careful consideration” in appendix 1 must be reported to the compliance function. Gifts/benefits must also be reported in accordance with applicable tax rules.
Bonus/loyalty points or the like earned in connection with business travel or work-related expenses are expected to be applied as far as possible to the payment of job-related expenses.
IMPARTIALITY AND CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
Employees have a duty of loyalty to the company, including a duty to behave in conformity with their employer’s interests. No employee, etc, must participate in or seek to influence a decision if conflicts of interest could arise or if their impartiality could be called into question. Conflicts of interest may arise when the company’s interests and those of the individual do not coincide. That could occur as the result of a family relationship, close personal ties or financial or other interests, including owner interests or a directorship in the company, team or association which the matter relates to.
Employees, etc, must not deal with or take decisions on matters which have to do with their close associates, or matters where close associates have financial interests. Employees, etc, must also exercise caution in taking decisions relating to people whom they know personally.
Senior executives must report to the board if they have a significant interest, directly or indirectly, in a contract or agreement being entered into by the company.
Employees who are close associates of each other must not have positions where one of them has direct management responsibility for the other. Having one employee exercising control functions for a person who is their close associate must also be avoided.
Should doubt exist about whether a loss of impartiality or a conflict of interest could arise, the employee must always submit the issue to their immediate superior. That is not only to protect EBK’s interests, but also to protect the individual from unjustified suspicion of improper behaviour. This is described in more detail in EBK’s guidelines on conflicts of interest.
The effectiveness of the ethical guidelines depends crucially on each individual employee continuously assessing their circumstances in relation to the rules. All managers have a special responsibility for ensuring that their own behaviour and that of their subordinates accords at all times with the ethical guidelines. The executive management conducts continuous assessments of the appropriateness of these rules, and presents proposals for amendments when these are considered necessary.
The compliance function has a responsibility to monitor compliance with the guidelines, maintain a register of reported gifts and benefits, and ensure that breaches of the guidelines are reported to the board. Breaches of the ethical guidelines or relevant legal provisions may have consequences in terms of employment and/or criminal law.
APPROVAL OF THE ETHICAL GUIDELINES
The guidelines were approved by the board of EBK on 13. March 2019 and came into force for all employees, etc, from the same date.
 As defined in section 2-5 of the Norwegian Securities Trading Act.
Source: Confederation of Norwegian Enterprises (NGO) ”...over streken?" («Overstepping the mark»)