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Why is Investment Banking out of favour?

Why is Investment Banking out of favour?

It’s all about values, drivers and the power of motivation!

As I watched the Paralympics opening ceremony it made me think of how the human spirit has such an avaricious appetite to grow develop and conquer under any circumstances!

The passion and motivation of the Paralympians is very inspirational, especially since it is all about challenging yourself to succeed against all odds.

It is the spirit and the discipline of the participants that amazes me.

This leads me to compare this spirit of individual achievement and pride against the dramatic loss of reputation of Global Banking – partly because this is the industry I am deeply involved in, day in day out, with my clients and ex colleagues.

Imagine the knock on effect of this on the morale of the employees, who are constantly attacked at any opportunity “Banker eh..this is all your fault!” Having to defend their profession at dinner parties, football matches, school pick-ups etc.!

All of this takes its toll on the motivation and drive of these individuals. A huge burden to bear!

So, why are the Financial Services – particularly Investment Banking in such turmoil?

Things used to be different, believe it or not.

I remember a time when the code of conduct of every city gent and (eventually!) lady that worked in the ‘square mile’ – The City, operated on the principle of ‘My word is my bond!’

Many deals were struck over a bottle of port and a handshake. Behind this was the value of integrity and trustworthiness in the profession.

In fact, my own career within this profession, which I am incredibly proud of, started with a training programme in which we were taught that our first and foremost duty to was to serve the customer and build trust.

The motivation for both of the examples cited above is known as ‘a towards’ positive motivation. A flow of behaviour that leads to positive outcomes.  Below we contrast this to the opposite an “Away from” motivation which leads to a flow of behaviour that leads to negative outcomes. The important thing to understand is that both types of motivation will generate an associated behaviour. A driver for the behaviour comes from the underlying motivation.

Today the situation is different

Fast forward 40 years to now, and the premise on which the Financial Services industry primarily operates is fuelled by creating income and generating ‘Shareholder Value’ for the organisation.

So all measures of performance and success are determined and rewarded through this measure.

Money creates money rewards money!!

Business and generation of profit is what it’s all about.

The pressure on individuals to perform to achieve targets is constant and linear, i.e. make more each year no matter what. So how does this objective fuel action, well in reality what we have witnessed is the repeated actions of employees who are driven by a motivation to make money at any cost, their incentive is a personal bonus- MONEY!  Result, a string of ethical violations unfolding with regularity! This is known as ‘Away from’ motivation, a flow of behaviour that leads to negative outcomes.   Further, consider what is currently driving Financial Services industry now, it is ‘don’t want to be fined by the regulator’, ‘can’t be seen to turn down profit making business’ etc.? so just think about the flow of behaviour that this is generating.

Every Action has a Reaction

The consequences include:

  1. Stress and illness in employees feeling pressure
  2. Disengaged and non-performing employees
  3. Behaviour of employees that has led to the many scandals that we read about such as mis-selling, LIBOR rigging, front running FX orders (market abuse)

The latter resulted in front page headlines which feature the Bank, the traders and the losses – A horror story – Loss of reputation!

Personal consequences for the individuals. Prison and fines for the traders, who in each of the cases I have read about, insisted that their leaders were aware of their actions, or that they were under pressure to make money (no matter by what means).

It beggars belief that so many of these individuals could not differentiate between right and wrong, they believed themselves to be invincible and above the rules and regulations governing them.

Or, did they actually believe that they were just doing what was asked of them, to generate profit which implicitly gave them permission to behave in this way. This was the culture that was the ‘norm’ across all the Banks. So was the ‘away from’ motivation the problem? Was this the new ‘norm’ for employees?

The resultant tremendous loss of reputation not only for the individual Banks, for the entire industry but most importantly for every person working within the profession. This is so very hard to claw back and has now led to a plethora of regulations and increased pressure on the employees leading to low morale and performance.

So what can we do to solve this?

What can be done to create a step change in rebuilding the reputation of the profession and renewing the spirit and energy of employees?

Well, much like the Paralympians, I am sure at an individual level, Bankers may feel like they are unable to influence anything to succeed against all the odds stacked against them.

Not true, a shift in mind-set and attitude together with a ‘towards’ motivation to change behaviour at every layer within an organisation could be the starting point. This will eventually lead to a culture which rewards ethical decision making using moral intelligence as much as the current structure that rewards technical intelligence.

Understanding Ownership, Accountability, and Consequences are the start of it.

If we now know that there a 2 types of motivation which results in a specific behaviour and we also know that behaviour shapes a culture, ask what is the driver of your organisation and how do you want your employees to behave?

Here are my tips:

  • Set the tone from the top- Leaders ‘walk the talk’. It begins here as they are role models of behaviour which pervades down to every individual. In other words create a clear line of sight of what you want from your employees. What are the associated values? Is fear the driver (‘away from’) or is it love, connection, kindness? (‘toward’)?
  • Reward those individuals who model the firm values and use moral intelligence
  • Ensure that each person understands the consequences of non-adherence. Not just a fine but personal accountability and potentially a prison sentence.

Connection, Kindness, and Compassion are infectious human values.

Pipaltree can help you to bring the values of a firm to life. Find out how.

Start an epidemic of towards motivation and watch the spirit of your workforce awaken!