Friday, 21 June 2013

Doing the right thing

Yesterday a parliamentary review ‘Changing Banking For Good’ delivered a stinging verdict on the performance of UK banks and behavior of many bankers.  This was a serious exercise with the great and the good working over 6 months, interviewing hundreds of witnesses and hearing 161 hours of evidence.  Among the recommendations are more demanding remuneration regimes for bankers and more competition for retail and corporate banks.  Hooray!  That all sounds good to me – but the real turning point for our financial services institutions won’t come with regulation.  It will come when the concept of ‘customer’ is tattooed into the souls of bankers – I mean branch staff, their supervisors, head office staff and corporate lenders.

All companies have to pay some regard to their customers – I would argue that banks have found this hard.  Take retail banks where customers are on the whole disengaged from their banks, they don’t expect much and don’t consider changing to a new bank.  On the other side of the counter bank staff have to contend with a myriad of rules and regulations.  It reminds me of a project I did once for a famous pizza chain – they had 47 separate standards when cooking and serving a pizza.  The poor pizza operatives (yes that was their job title) were so afraid of the mystery shopper that they didn’t even consider the customer – their god was the 47 standards.

Only when bankers get a deep understanding of who their customers are and what turns them on will they get truly motivated to deliver the highest standards.  Not because a regulation says you must or must not do something – but because you have a connection with someone, someone you want to help out, someone you want to do the right thing for.