I’m going way, way back in time to when I was a mere youngster in finance. Yes, there were planes, trains and automobiles back then you insulting, poisonous bunch-backed toad. Anyways, back then, I did a business process analysis of one of the country’s largest financial firms and I still remember to this day what the head of customer services said to me.
“We have created a company of box-ticking, button-pushing robots and must break out of this”.
We had been looking at the customer onboarding and underwriting processes and, sure enough, the company had evolved through the years to training their people to check documentation and just make sure that all the procedures had been followed and all the details provided as per the required system. No one had a brain. No one was encouraged to have one.
In fact, I remember that we used to visit many financial firms back in the 1990s, and look for how inspired their people were. It was a sad, state of affairs. Most people arrived at the office between 08:30 and 09:00 and you could literally see that as they got out of their cars and were dropped off by their buses, that their shoulders dropped and their demeanour disappeared as they walked through the front door of the building.
It was almost like Harry Potter’s dementors had descended and had sucked the souls out of the people as they walked into the building.
This also rang some bells on another occasion, when talking with front-line staff about their views of their company. They were all nice people with passionate hobbies and loving families, but they felt that their company didn’t see them that way. They were seen as just factory workers in an office, checking forms and dealing with customer calls according to a regimented script.
I remember asking one of them when they had last had a chance to meet with the head of customer services and they said: “oh, I see him come in every morning but he doesn’t come over here. We might as well not exist. He goes to the corner office suite over there, and usually asks his assistant to go in. Then she’ll come out after half an hour and bark orders at all the supervisors and off goes our day.”
She hadn’t actually had a one-on-one conversation with her manager’s managers ever. Maybe you think she doesn’t need to, but I found these companies soul-destroying. When talking about flattened organisations that were coach-counsel and empowered people, I might as well have been offering the management team an enema. They were not keen.
Luckily, times have changed so much. Today, young folks gleefully walk into Canary Wharf and other financial centres across Europe, inspired by their leadership teams who dynamically tell them that they are the greatest people on Earth and to go do whatever they need to do to change the world of banking and insurance today. They are all empowered and have had those shackles of rules and regulations torn from their lives so they can actually think, and not be box-ticking, button-pushing robots.
I wish …
… ah well, at least they can go and establish a start-up in FinTech and change the world themselves, rather than waiting for someone to tell them to.