There is no substitute for a culture of integrity in organizations. Compliance alone with the law is not enough. History shows that those who make a practice of skating close to the edge always wind up going over the line. A higher bar of ethics performance is necessary. That bar needs to be set and monitored in the boardroom.  ~J. Richard Finlay writing in The Globe and Mail.

Sound governance is not some abstract ideal or utopian pipe dream. Nor does it occur by accident or through sudden outbreaks of altruism. It happens when leaders lead with integrity, when directors actually direct and when stakeholders demand the highest level of ethics and accountability.  ~ J. Richard Finlay in testimony before the Standing Committee on Banking, Commerce and the Economy, Senate of Canada.

The Finlay Centre for Corporate & Public Governance is the longest continuously cited voice on modern governance standards. Our work over the course of four decades helped to build the new paradigm of ethics and accountability by which many corporations and public institutions are judged today.

The Finlay Centre was founded by J. Richard Finlay, one of the world’s most prescient voices for sound boardroom practices, sanity in CEO pay and the ethical responsibilities of trusted leaders. He coined the term stakeholder capitalism in the 1980s.

We pioneered the attributes of environmental responsibility, social purposefulness and successful governance decades before the arrival of ESG. Today we are trying to rebuild the trust that many dubious ESG practices have shattered. 


We were the first to predict seismic boardroom flashpoints and downfalls and played key roles in regulatory milestones and reforms.

We’re working to advance the agenda of the new boardroom and public institution of today: diversity at the table; ethics that shine through a culture of integrity; the next chapter in stakeholder capitalism; and leadership that stands as an unrelenting champion for all stakeholders.

Our landmark work in creating what we called a culture of integrity and the ethical practices of trusted organizations has been praised, recognized and replicated around the world.


Our rich institutional memory, combined with a record of innovative thinking for tomorrow’s challenges, provide umatached resources to corporate and public sector players.

Trust is the asset that is unseen until it is shattered.  When crisis hits, we know a thing or two about how to rebuild trust— especially in turbulent times.

We’re still one of the world’s most recognized voices on CEO pay and the role of boards as compensation credibility gatekeepers. Somebody has to be.

It is a legacy that stands in sharp contrast to the so-called hedge fund and LBO heroes of today, who instantly appear then quickly vanish from the scene, and where the celebrity status of self-proclaimed movers and shakers has about the same shelf life as a prize in a cereal box. It is also a lesson that gentlemen, too, can rise to great heights but still keep their feet on the ground.

A remarkable man passed from the scene this week. His name was Rowland Frazee and for many years he was chairman and CEO of Royal Bank of Canada, the country’s largest bank. He was remarkable not just because he was a highly successful business leader, but because he managed to rise to the pinnacle of success while being a gentleman with a strong social conscience.

I first met Mr. Frazee some three decades ago, when he was on a jury which gave me some award. He was interested in social responsibility issues long before they became a fad. One way you can tell a genuine leader is by his capacity to show an interest in others and make them feel important. And I felt very important after my meeting with him. He was like those baseball greats of yesterday who managed to hit more than a few out of the park but always had their feet planted firmly on the ground. He started working in a small bank branch, answered freedom’s call in the second world war, where he was wounded three times in the Italian Campaign and in battles in Europe, and then returned to raise a family and resume his career. He presided over a period of impressive growth and change at Royal Bank that kept it solidly in the lead of its competitors. And, believe it or not in this day of numbingly common ethical debacle and almost daily corporate embarrassment, he managed to do it all without a hint of scandal or making a giant size payout because somebody at the bank dropped the ball.

He was, like many who have come this way and are now sadly gone, part of the greatest generation. They knew what was important. And they knew what many in my generation and a few others forgot or perhaps never learned: a virtue called humility and the concept of “enough.”

Rowland Frazee’s life and career seem such an astonishing contrast to the so-called hedge fund and LBO heroes of today, who instantly appear then quickly vanish from the scene, and where the celebrity status of self-proclaimed movers and shakers has about the same shelf life as a prize in a cereal box. They strut around the stage for a while. Some even manage to acquire billions and ever more youthful wives. But in the end, they don’t seem to leave very much behind that can be measured or appreciated in human terms. Egos die. Legacies endure.

Mr. Frazee retired some years ago to the small New Brunswick town where he was raised, and contributed his time and ideas to the community. He touched many people in far-reaching ways, not the least of which was to remind us all that there is room for a gentleman in the world of big business who can still accomplish a lot without being nasty, garish or boasting about the size of his mansions.

I am not generally one to suggest more awards in a world already overcrowded with prize-winning real estate agents and endlessly honored show business types. But there would be no better way to celebrate Rowland Frazee’s legacy than for Royal Bank’s board of directors to establish an award that recognizes and encourages in others the kind of civilized conduct he exemplified in business and public life. It is a model which both business and society need to see much more of these days —and very soon.