We spare a thought for those devastated by actions driven by the toxic culture in the financial services industry.
We now know that, while some of Australia's biggest companies were promoting themselves as reliable and trustworthy, they were actually gripped by a culture of greed and self interest. The stories coming from the the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation, and Financial Services Industry have been shocking.
Financial service brands, some of them iconic, that have been promoted over many years as reliable and trustworthy, have now been shown to have been greedy and manipulative. How could this be?
The culture of the entire industry has declined as its leaders instilled in their employees that the need to sell was greater than the desire to serve, fuelled on by replacing once stable salaries with commissions and bonuses. As a consequence loyalty has become less important than growth and, in many cases, profit has become more important than integrity.
OUR MESSAGE TO BUSINESS LEADERS
Why did these iconic institutions go into business at all? We doubt it was to charge dead people insurance premiums, or to push vulnerable people into financial destruction. It was probably because, actually, their founders wanted to change the world, such as creating financial security and independence for their customers.
If only your Boards had focused on that purpose.
If only your customers could have confidence that purpose was reflected in the the actions, interactions, and decisions of everyone in your organisation.
The brand of your business is not just what your advertising says. It's not the logo, the tag-line, or the corporate colours. Ultimately, especially in a service industry, your brand is driven by how people feel when they interact with your company and the people in it. Good, bad, or ugly that's just the cold truth of it. And in this case, it has been ugly.
Giving moral clarity is the leader's obligation to their team. It is not enough to say the purpose for which the organisation exists. People within the organisation must have confidence that they can approach their leader for clarity of the rules for achieving it, and that those rules will be applied - at any cost. This is the importance of having clear value statements.
When you can describe your values in a manner that guides a positive culture and becomes the test for every decision, communication, and interaction in the organisation, then you have the means to apply governance and ensure that bad behaviour, such as has now been exposed, doesn't happen.
If only you had value statements that said "honour the trust given to us by our clients", and "exercise moral leadership in all that we do", and those had become your non-negotiable rules of engagement, then you would have given clarity for your people to genuinely build your brand.
It's the Boards responsibility to ensure your business model is moral and profitable, then to give the executive and staff the tools that they need to turn that business model into a valuable brand. That entails being able to articulate the answer to this question: How do we want people to feel when they interact with us?
If only there was clarity amongst everyone in your organisations of the value statements that guide their behaviour, and that they were building a brand based on customers interacting with them feeling:
It's hard to imagine such shocking outcomes for customers taking place.
H Agents write about the joys and challenges of entrepreneurship and managing people.