Jerry Maguire and ethics

The blockbuster movie Jerry Maguire turns 25 this year, which means I’ve been saying “Show me the money” for longer than several of my colleagues have been alive. That stings as much as learning that songs on my college mixtapes are now considered classic rock. Or hearing the Muzak version of Billy Idol’s White Wedding in an airport elevator. The 80s had the best music for sure! But decades later, do Jerry’s views on business and relationships still hold water? 

Jerry Maguire is a rockstar sports agent who has an epiphany about how to achieve fulfillment. “Fewer clients. Less money. More attention. Caring for them.” Focusing on his clients’ needs, not the money, is the key to (his) happiness. He shares his newfound mission statement with the office and is promptly fired. All but one of his clients leaves him. We watch his struggle to do right by that remaining client (and yes, this is a reluctant romantic comedy so there’s that plot line too). Credit unions are rooted in the higher calling of “people helping people” so the new Jerry would fit right in our ranks.

Ethics are everything

Ethics take on greater importance in the credit union industry. As not-for-profit financial cooperatives, a credit union’s membership—not nameless stockholders—is directly affected by how the credit union operates. You put your members’ interests first to deliver on the promise of being good stewards of the funds entrusted to your care. That means something today, particularly in a world where it often feels like the bottom line is king. Can for-profit organizations also demonstrate their focus on doing right by the client? Is it possible to be profitable and ethical? Yes and yes.

Ethisphere is a global leader in defining and advancing standards of ethical business practices. Each year it awards the designation of World’s Most Ethical Companies to organizations that demonstrate a commitment to ethical business practices. It uses a proprietary rating system to objectively and rigorously score a company across five categories: Governance; Leadership and Reputation; Ethics and Compliance; Culture of Ethics; and Environmental and Societal Impact. In 2021, 135 companies were recognized across 47 industries. Having strong ethics pays off too; these honorees outperformed a comparable index of large cap companies by 7.1%.

I’m pleased to note that Gallagher was recently recognized as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies. For ten consecutive years, Gallagher earned this distinction and is the only insurance broker in the group. My team is proud of this designation—especially to be recognized for our performance during a time of great change and challenge. 

More importantly, however, we view the achievement as one more way we deliver value to our credit union clients. Executive benefits programs are a long-term investment, potentially outlasting the executives and board who implemented them. The impact to a credit union’s bottom line, as well as regulatory and compliance requirements, warrant a trustworthy partner. Ethics always matter, and as Jerry soon learns, are a critical differentiator. 

Things we think and should do and say everyday

Jerry’s undoing starts with distributing his 25-page mission statement to the office, “The Things We Think and Do Not Say.” It’s not 25 pages, but the Gallagher Way is 25 tenets on how my colleagues and I conduct ourselves. On their own, none are especially earth-shattering. Collectively, this framework of ethical expectations attracts the best talent and delivers the highest results to our clients. I encourage you to share your mission statement with your members and job candidates, and get feedback from your employees on how well it’s integrated into your culture. You may find value in diving deeper by distinguishing between a purpose statement (why do we exist?), a vision statement (what does a successful future look like?) and a mission statement (how will we get there?). 

You complete me

Since the movie’s debut in 1996, the world has dramatically changed and continues to change. Technological, social, and medical advancements come at a dizzying pace. The world looks and feels different, but the relationships we maintain keep us grounded. Working from home has taught us new ways to communicate, but nothing takes the place of in-person moments. Jerry’s mentor shares a number of lessons learned, including “The key to this business is personal relationships.” This is as true today as it was back then, and perhaps even more profound in a digital, post-pandemic world. The ethics of doing right by your member or client, are timeless. 

You won’t find an existential transformation or deep character study, but Jerry’s trending toward more ethical choices is satisfying. Watch Jerry Maguire on Amazon Prime or AMC on demand.

Liz Santos

Liz Santos

As Chief of Staff for the Executive Benefits practice, Liz supports the teams that design and service client benefit plans. Formerly BFB, Gallagher Executive Benefits consults with organizations on securing ... Web: Details