Leading Through Values – The Way To Avoid Irresponsible Business Practice

With the Covid crisis encouraging thoughts of financial meltdown it’s perhaps instructive to find a bank that has taken a different approach and as a consequence is likely to weather the crunch hurricane better than most. Wells Fargo is a medium sized US West Coast bank. Just have a look at the following Wells Fargo Sentiments:

A motivated employee will sell more than an un-motivated employee
A common sense of purpose is more important than monetary incentives.
Happy to grumpy employees stands at 8.5:1 compared to 2:1 for the US business population
An average cross-sell rate of 5.64 products per customer, double the competitor average

“It’s about our culture. I could leave our strategy on an aeroplane seat and have a competitor read it and it would not make any difference”

The reason many financial institutions are struggling is more than a failure of strategy, but a failure of values. Money making strategies that are not connected to a values anchor will drift into doing things just because they make money, without thinking ‘is this the kind of activity a business like ours should be doing, how could it affect in the long term, the well being of our shareholders, customers and employees?’ I’m sure when this is all over there is a piece of research to do that shows a relationship between the size of bonuses paid out and the degree of poor judgement demonstrated. People talk about risk needing to be well rewarded, but where are the leaders who decide when the risk is irresponsible?

Any business that sees its collective objective to make money for personal gain only will in the end eat itself. The argument that is sometimes made that if it’s legal then it’s legitimate doesn’t cut it. Modern business moves at such pace and with such complexity regulators and legislators can’t keep up, or sometimes even envisage what limiting framework is required until it’s too late. What is required is capitalism with a responsible dimension, which means being values driven, and that requires leading with integrity, a curiously old fashioned sounding notion.

Wells Fargo seems to be a company that is staying in touch with its values.