From the vote, it seems that there is still little love lost between bankers and a good 52 per cent of the population. Although not all would have voted because of this, it is clear that a Remain argument about the implications on our financial services industry had little sway with voters. And who would blame them? The 2008 financial crisis is still fresh in a lot of people’s mind, and the austerity measures that came with this have had a dramatic impact on the everyday lives of most people, while the media appears to have a constant flow of negative stories about the industry on tap.
The backlash against experts and expertise in the referendum would also make it seem like an impossible uphill struggle for financial services to regain any consumer trust, but I would argue that now more than ever there is an opportunity to champion those that would rally against them.
The referendum was effectively a cry for change and a challenging of the status quo. As investments and savings become ever more important for creating long-term financial stability for consumers, it should be the financial services industry that is there to meet these challenges head-on and with positivity.
So how can the financial industry do this?
First, by walking a mile in their customer's shoes, and by understanding the challenges and needs that people face every day. But for that idea to work, everyone in the organisation needs to understand it, from accountants to fund managers, not just the marketing department who create the campaigns.
Second, by fostering a culture of change. Let's take inspiration from the referendum and create a culture where dissent is king, and where debate and criticism are actively encouraged so that anyone can challenge an idea when it is not in the best interests of the customer.
And lastly, by promoting original thinking from everyone. As with my first point, ideas can, and should, come from anyone, pauper or prince. We need to foster ways to generate ideas and open ourselves up to innovative thinking to challenge the status quo and discover better solutions.
Adam Grant in his book “Originals”, which shows how one can generate, recognise, voice and champion new ideas, has these practical tips to foster a culture that can help illicit change and challenge the status quo.
Hire not on cultural fit, but on cultural contribution. Look to hire people who can enrich your culture; not just fit in with it.
Shift from exit interviews to entry interviews. Instead of asking people why they are leaving, ask people what brought them there, and what ideas they have to make things better.
Ask for problems, not solutions. Create an open document in which people can flag problems, and once a month bring people together to solve them; this avoids ending up with advocacy over inquiry and missing out on the breadth of knowledge within the organisation.
Invite employees from different functions and levels to pitch ideas; this can add skill variety to work while increasing the organisation’s access to ideas.
Run an innovation tournament. Send out a focused call for ideas to solve a specific problem or meet an untapped need. Give employees three weeks to develop proposals, with the winners receiving a budget, a team, and the relevant mentoring to make the winning solution a reality.
Don’t assign Devil’s advocates: unearth them. Dissenting opinions are useful, even when wrong, because they help challenge and shape ideas, but only if they are authentic and consistent. Find those who hold a minority opinion and have them challenge your ideas and views.
Welcome criticism. Adam Grant cites the investment company Bridgewater as an organisation that promotes the expression of ideas, and it does this through advocating open criticism, including of the CEO. By inviting public criticism, it sets the tone for people to communicate more openly even when their ideas are unpopular.
Only if the industry looks inward first to open itself up – to challenge, debate and criticism – will it be able to create an authentic voice outward, one that starts to rebuild and gain trust with consumers. And by opening this up to everyone in an organisation, it ensures that ideas are held accountable, naval-gazing is avoided, and the customer is at the heart of every decision.