Corporate Governance Awards 2016: Best compliance and ethics program (small to mid-cap) - Voya Financial

Feb 09, 2017
<p>Doing the right thing</p>

‘The IPO was a watershed moment for us to have a new code of conduct and raise awareness about ethics and compliance,’ says Jean Weng, deputy general counsel and corporate secretary at Voya Financial.

The firm spun off from ING Group in 2013, establishing independent financial backing through its IPO in the same year. Working with a blank slate, Voya’s goal was to create a culture of ethics using the tagline ‘do the right thing’, which would be exemplified by the board and permeate through the business.

Weng acknowledges that ethics and compliance aren’t typically engaging subjects. ‘We try to make it as alive and nonboring as possible,’ she says. ‘We want people to take notice, so we sometimes add some humor and make it more fun to participate.’

During the firm’s annual ethics week, Weng’s team releases interactive quizzes, blog posts and videos from senior executives, including the chief executive, CFO and chief human resources officer.

It’s important to Voya’s leadership that it does the right thing internally and externally. Last year, its employees contributed 44,000 hours of volunteer work. The focal point is the national day of service, when employees are given 15 volunteering programs to choose from, ranging from providing early-stage financial education to visiting children’s hospitals.

‘There’s a great camaraderie,’ Weng says. ‘It’s great that all our executive committee members participated. It really helps when the message comes from the top of your business.’ The corporate responsibility program is further reinforced through the Voya Giving Campaign, where the firm matches an employee’s charitable donation up to $25,000.

Another central tenet of Voya’s culture of ethics and compliance is its belief that diversity of thought drives better business results. ‘We had a great opportunity to attack this worthy topic when we wanted to list,’ Weng says. ‘We had nine board members – all of whom were Caucasian men.’

In the two years following the IPO, ING vacated its board seats and enabled Voya’s chairman and CEO Rodney Martin to build a more diverse board. Today, four of Voya’s nine independent directors are female and the board features expertise in risk management, marketing, technology and retail.

This year the firm went further and targeted diversity on its executive committee. The results have been similarly transformative: five of the 11 members are now female.

For its efforts, Voya has recently received awards and recognition from the NYSE, the Women’s Forum of New York, the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index and the Ethisphere Institute – along with Weng’s recognition as governance professional of the year (small to mid-cap) at the 2016 Corporate Governance Awards.

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