Banking On Purpose

Bankers’ mission is to give people easy, reliable and pleasant access to their money and help them keep and multiply it so they live better lives. Easy, right? Wrong. So heartbreakingly wrong for both parties.

Quid Prodes?

We live in an age where much is being said about working with purpose, having one both as individuals and as workers in the establishment.

For some parts of society, recognizing their purpose and rallying around it is straightforward and an easy enterprise. Those who find themselves working in a charity, any type of not-for-profit or a governmental body are very clear what the stated purpose is and as they are normal, decent human beings they can find it within themselves to strongly resonate with it and make it their life’s work while being part of the respective organizations in an organic, non-mandated way.

After all, it isn’t difficult to feel passionate about safeguarding children or even pandas, bettering roads or legislation. These employees have the luxury of an entire machinery working so they achieve that and while they endure the same organizational trappings as the rest of us, the overall goal is bigger than them and ever present to remind them it’s a worthwhile enterprise even when it may become hard or painful.

For those of us in any type of commercial set-up, in any kind of industry things start becoming slightly murkier as we are all intensely aware of the fact that the main reason of being for the organization is its ability to generate a profit.

For Love Nor Money

As soon as profit is unveiled as the driver behind an enterprise it almost immediately throws its higher aspirations into question. We’ve come to distrust company’s mission statements dripped in idealistic values and dismiss them in our hearts of hearts as being a front for their real purpose of making money.

With lack of trust and love for big corporations being one of the few unifying factors in western society today, truly believing them when they say their intent is to make the customer happy by providing something worthwhile to them is hard if not impossible to stomach.

This extends to smaller enterprise and even start-ups although paradoxically we don’t believe the latter’s declarations as we feel they “can’t afford the lofty aspirations and business may dictate they sell out”.

No one gets more disdain and mistrust in the game of “why do it other than the $” than the banks and implicitly bankers.

Dog Foods

The reason the term “eating one’s own dog food” was invented is because this is not a given that the makers of a product are simultaneously its consumers. In fact, in most industries, this is the case. The set of people who design, fabricate and commercialize a certain product or service are simply not its main segment of purchasers, hence a lot is being done to help them think as if they were.

In fact, the more luxury the item or niche the service, the less likely that anyone in the team ever comes in direct contact with it as a consumer hence the enterprise will have to rely on external data input to know how their consumers react to their offering.

This makes having a genuine and authentic purpose even more difficult as the more removed the employee are from being a consumer the less they truly believe in it and its contribution to the lives of those it touches.

Equally, some products or services have such dry propositions in terms of being invisible infrastructure that while potentially a consumer, it’s hard to believe in its place in the lives of those that avail themselves of it.

Infrastructural industries such as energy or telephony alongside high-end luxury makers, all struggle terribly to concoct, articulate and imbue purpose in their employee.

In banking, this is not an issue. No banker is far removed from the act of banking and none has zero relationship with their money. There’s no denying the daily consumption of the proverbial dog food.

The Russian Tragedy

For many bankers, whether they will admit it or not, their job is the source of much internal turmoil. The cognitive dissonance of being viscerally aware of how they are not offering the right service and the inability to do anything about it, in particular within the constraints of the organizations or really, their own personal limitations that force them to turn a blind eye to evident means of innovation and progress to protect their position is a dramatic daily crisis of consciousness.

For many bankers, the drama involves a split personality state where they go from the Consumer on their shoulder trying to go about their day using money and encountering all manners of hurdles and challenges when they know they deserve smooth sailing to Banker sitting in yet another meeting that circles around the same big themes of a few years ago and ends with a promise of documents being emailed and even more consulting-speak being thrown in.

Banking today has all the makings of a Cehov or Tolstoy drama.

Where does purpose fit in this sad state of affairs? How are bankers to think of lofty ideals such as making the financial lives of the consumers better when every minute of their working lives seems so far removed from that? How are they to authentically believe they can affect someone’s existence in a positive fashion from inside this carrousel of meetings, consulting speak, brutal office politics, organizational rot, and a whirlwind of technology and regulation?

The answer has to lay with courage. If they are brave enough to withstand the pressure and increase their “Consumer” time, gradually but surely, until they remain firmly anchored in that one state, that one persona that has the obvious demands but also the common sense answers, then they will naturally want what’s best for that Consumer, themselves, and accomplish it.