More than half of executives at asset managers, insurers and other institutional investors believe flexibility on ethical standards is required to guarantee career progression.

A survey sponsored by the CFA Institute found that more than two-thirds of respondents – working also in the banking and fund management sectors – said their companies had raised awareness of the importance of ethical conduct by all its employees.

It also found that 56% believed improved ethical conduct would enhance the firm’s ability to withstand “unexpected and dramatic risks”.

However, almost the same amount of respondents – 53% – agreed with the statement that adhering to technical standards too strictly risked stunting career growth.

The survey said there was “little doubt” that sincere attempts were being undertaken to bring about change in the way the financial industry conducts itself – largely led by industry-wide bodies.

“A number of deep-rooted tensions, however, will make creating a strong culture a big challenge for the industry over the coming years,” the survey added.

“While executives champion ethical conduct, they struggle to see the benefits of greater adherence to ethical standards, reporting that, in reality, it can hamper career progression in the industry as well as the firm’s competitiveness,” it said.

The survey concluded executives still did not see the benefit of regular inter-departmental understanding as a means of improving performance.

John Rogers, president and chief executive at the CFA Institute, said the industry still had “further to go on its journey” to improve ethical standards.

“If we are to move the industry forward, it is incumbent upon everyone within the industry to align their personal and organisational values with those that serve client, shareholder and societal needs,” he said. “Aspiring to adopt these values will create more resilient firms and a stronger future for finance.”