How to Defeat the Challenge of Defining Your Bank’s Values

By: Scott Seroka

In the process of defining values, some banks don’t realize that the very values they are promoting would be better defined as basic customer expectations.

Here are a few examples:

  1. Honesty. I would certainly hope so. Not that any financial institution has a choice as any dishonest activity borders on the line of illegal and prosecutable. If your bank is promoting this as a “value,” you honestly can do better.
  2. Respect. Not to diminish its meaning, but this isn’t anything special. If respect isn’t a part of your bank’s culture, you have much larger problems to contend with.
  3. Integrity. Because of such widespread and excessive use (like the term innovation), its meaning and relevance has been lost.
  4. Teamwork. Customers have a right to expect that your people will operate and work as a team. If the left hands don’t know what the right hands are doing, your bank simply will not be successful.
  5. Thinking outside the box. I’m surprised every time I see this one. It’s an ancient and irrelevant way to express creativity and innovation. In fact, some believe that thinking “outside the box” can be counterproductive and detrimental. Apple creatively circumvented this with their tagline, “Think Different.”
  6. Customer service. If your bank is not focused on providing customers with the best possible level of service, you won’t be able to keep any.


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Defining your bank’s values is something that truly needs to be thought through if you wish to make an impact on a prospective customers’ decision to choose your bank over another. In other words, they need to be built on substance – not fluff. When values are properly defined and integrated into a well-functioning, healthy culture, the results can be extraordinary. For example,

  1. Values guide employees toward desired behaviors, beliefs and attitudes required to deliver on your bank’s brand promise.
  2. They establish guardrails and provide guidance for making decisions, no matter how large or small.
  3. Greater onboarding success can be achieved as hiring managers will know what traits and qualities to look for in potential hires.
  4. When work teams share a common set of values, not only does productivity increase, conflict diminishes as harmony becomes more mainstream in the workplace.
  5. When competitive financial institutions appear equal, people will typically gravitate toward brands living values they believe in.

When considering what your values are, or what they could be, think in terms of the mindset you will need to take your bank to successive levels. For example, one CEO shared with me that his original team did a great job of getting his company to hit $5 million in sales, but not all were up to the task of hitting $10 million. And although he was proud of his culture, he admittedly never thought through what values would be necessary to achieve $10 million in sales and beyond.

After much introspection, some of the values he defined and instilled in his culture included: perseverance, courage, risk-taking, accountability, welcoming oppositional thinking, and succeeding through failure.

Today, he is currently running a $32 million company and is convinced it would not have been possible without defining and hiring to a set of ordained values.

It’s clear he found the formula.

So now it’s your turn. Think of your brand and what it stands for. What kind of values will you need to instill at your bank to ensure you can become all you can be?