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It’s only words … why values and missions are questionable

I go around a lot of banks and am always struck by their similarities and differences. To be honest, there are more similarities than differences. Most have big corporate offices, with great views over their home cities; their branches are now well-lit stores with open counters; and their apps all offer what appears at first glance, the same things – balance, payment, statements and such like.

Another similarity is that they all have values. Not values, as in $152 billion market valuation or $152 in the kitty, but values as in we love our customers, and that sort of thing. Often, these values are on a big poster board in the middle of the main reception or halfway up the building in the executive floor. These boards have words like Respect, Excellence and Passion; Caring, Ambition and Responsive; Friendly, Informed and Flexible. Sometimes these words that represent their values create acronyms like RISE, LOVE and FIRST. My favourite is the bank whose values are Leadership, Integrity, Pride and Service … or LIP Service for short.

Yep, banks have values … but I wonder how far they go, how real they are and how much people believe in them. It’s a little bit like mission statements – they’re just words. For example, can you work out which companies have these mission statements (answers at the end of this blog)?

  1. “Our product is service. Our value added is financial advice and guidance. Our competitive advantage is our people.”
  2. “To enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential.”
  3. “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company, where customers can find and discover anything they might want to buy online, and endeavours to offer its customers the lowest possible prices.”
  4. “To make it easy to do business anywhere.”
  5. “To refresh the world…To inspire moments of optimism and happiness…To create value and make a difference.”
  6. “We save people money so they can live better.”
  7. “To be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information, using its portfolio of brands to differentiate its content, services and consumer products.”
  8. “To be a company that inspires and fulfils your curiosity.”
  9. “Dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.”
  10. “First-class business in a first-class way.”

Now I’m that I’m not saying these are all bullshit. They’re not. Mission statements and values are meaningful … but only if we give them meaning through leadership. And this brings me back to my favourite subject: Leadership.

So many banks have the poster child of their values and missions, but the executive leadership team don’t deploy them well. They’re just words or lip service; not something wired into the DNA of the bank. In fact, ask any CEO or their direct reports to tell you what their values are and their mission statement, and how they convey this to people in their daily work, and many would find it a stretch.

They could probably give you some or all of their values, because they have the acronym to remember. But how do they measure those values? How are people trained in those values? How are those values embodied in the everyday banking experience?

They also could probably give you a version of their mission statement. They might get a few words wrong, but it would be close. But can they tell you how they’ve internalised that mission statement for themselves? What does it mean in how they behave and work? How do they bring colleagues and friends within the firm with them to live and breathe those words? Can they bring them?

Some banks and bank leadership teams do do this well. Some really work their values and mission, and have KPIs and CSFs and measurements and management dashboards to make them live and breathe.

But really … does yours? Does anyone? Is it in the DNA or the firm, or just lip service?



The ten mission statements listed are:

  1. Wells Fargo
  2. Microsoft
  3. Amazon
  4. Alibaba
  5. Coca-Cola
  6. Wal*Mart
  7. Disney
  8. Sony
  9. Southwest Airlines
  10. JP Morgan

More of these can be found here


About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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