In the world of finance and accounting, integrity, transparency, and justice are of the utmost importance. Yet, time and time again, the industry makes headlines for scandals and stories about financial professionals who have swindled investors and devastated entire companies.
Dr. Melanie Hicks, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs at Liberty University’s School of Business, believes it’s time for a change.
“One of the issues of the accounting finance world is the fact that there’s greed,” she said. “You don’t necessarily have the public trust; you hear about Wall Street and how money-hungry they are. But, you can be on Wall Street and still be a Christian — you can still act in an ethical manner.”
“You can provide the public with the reassurance that things are being done in the correct way,” she continued. “If we have students and other individuals who are God-believing individuals operating in moral and ethical ways, I think we can change that public opinion.”
As an accounting professor at Liberty University, Dr. Hicks, who has extensive experience serving in both public and private accounting, stresses the importance of integrity, hard work, and accountability in the world of finance.
“Integrity is one of those few things that no one can take away from you,” she said. “Ensure that you're always above board, that you’re always working hard — you’re always the first one in and the last one out. Make sure you’re always doing things to the best of your ability and you’re asking questions. Service and performance can outweigh a lot of other things that go on in the world and in this industry in particular.”
The dangers of finance firms hiring employees who lack ethics are far-reaching, Dr. Hicks contends, as demonstrated by the 2001 collapse of Enron, the energy-trading company that perpetuated one of the biggest accounting frauds in history. And in an increasingly technological industry where money changes hands quickly and easily, personal accountability is sometimes the only defense against white collar crime and stealthy theft.
“Accountability is something that’s very important in our personal lives well as in our business professional lives,” she added. “Those who are willing to work hard and to invest the time, energy and effort into whatever it is they’re doing — that goes a long way.”
Through careful instruction and mentorship, Liberty students are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need for a successful career in every aspect of the finance industry. Biblical faith and Christian principles are integrated into every class, whether residential or online, enabling students to understand how their worldview influences their discipline and career.
“It’s not that we’re necessarily trying to change students; they’re already champions, we’re training champions for Christ,” Dr. Hicks said. “So, we’re honing those skills that their parents and their churches have already instilled in them; we’re refining them...If students can understand what it is that drives them and how their beliefs play out in the business world, then we’ve done our job.”
Despite presenting every issue from an overtly Christian standpoint, Dr. Hicks emphasized that Liberty University isn’t just for believers.
“We treat [non-Christians] just like every other student. We love on them, we mentor them, we train them,” she said. “God has created everybody in His likeness. It’s our job to take [each student] for the short time we have them and invest in them the way God wants us to.”
She added, “Hopefully, through Convocations, through the classroom, and through speaking into each student’s lives in terms of how the Bible interacts with their discipline, all of those things start to work on their soul and their heart so they can become a Christian if they’re not, or come back to God if they’ve started to stray. Or, if they’re a Christian, that these things strengthen them, and they can really see that connection and continue to grow stronger.”
The world of finance and accounting should be defined by its commitment to honesty, justice, and ethical business practices. It’s up to capable, knowledgeable professionals grounded in biblical principles to help the industry move in a positive direction.
“A healthy state in the finance and accounting world is one that is founded on biblical truth,” Dr. Hicks said. “Obviously not every company functions that way, but you can still have Christians operating in that manner, you can have non-Christians operating in that manner, and that’s what’s going to help the industry.”