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As Dorothy Parker said, “If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at who he gives it to.” Nowadays, in the city of London, he’s not giving too much away. The financial crisis of 2008 and its ensuing regulation put paid to all that. Nevertheless, like latter-day Dick Whittingtons seeking their fortunes, graduating MBA’s with few resources, debts to pay and high aspirations still seek positions in the financial service firms in high numbers. As a royal road to economic betterment it’s hard to beat. It still holds that the money available over time far outweighs anything one could earn in a so-called “normal job.” But here’s the rub. Lawmakers now have a vested interest in ensuring that worshippers at the Temple of Mammon are reined in. High risk / high reward is as outmoded at last year’s iPhone. Bonuses are now deferred, paid mainly in shares (folks, the value of securities can go up as well as down), and in any case before the big Euros kick in (what’s that?) you may well be 38 years old, your youth rapidly fading in the rear view mirror, hair sprouting where it’s unwanted and unneeded. So is it worth it?

As a veteran of an American investment bank, long since moved on to other pastures the answer lies in a grey zone. Working on the trading desks of big city firms is girls’ own fun, and boys too. The pace is fast, minds are sharp:it’s like having your Twitter feed in your face all day long, but with consequentiality. For the ambitious and the smart the products are sophisticated and creative. On the client side, there is no better place to cut your teeth in sales where the competition is vast, margins razor thin and your ability to differentiate relies on innovative collaboration. What lies behind all that coal face is pretty cool too. So your days will fly by in a blur and before you know it you will be in the thick of your mid-life crisis. And you may not be rich. If you are one of the lucky ones, your new-found wealth may force you to consider a different Act II. But for many, in this generation of joiners your ability to grasp the filthy lucre will probably outpace you into your forties. That’s a fair chunk of life to give up. In my work, I spend a lot of time dealing with unhappy people. Usually they are quite wealthy. Often their misery rests on something like the following: “I am wealthy, I missed my kids growing up, and my wife ran off with the tennis coach”. Or as John Lennon said, “ Life’s what happens when you are doing other things”.  So go after the money, because it’s still there, if you must. But make sure you check in with yourself at least once a year and look in the mirror to ask yourself: “Is this worth it?” Money can be found many places, but time only elapses. It’s later than you think!

Why bonus’s and the promise of them pump the blood through the banking system – Neil Gaught – Neil Gaught& Associates

Neil Gaught
Neil Gaught

It’s time for the annual consumer media condemnation of ‘Bankers’ Bonuses’.  The public loves to hate bankers, probably because banker bonuses were cast as one of the root causes of the 2008 global financial crisis. Painted as rewarding greed and excessive risk, the government and the regulators have all been drawn into the debate for and against bankers bonuses.  At the heart of the issue are the banks themselves.  Banks that suffer from negativity in terms of brand and reputation face a dilemma ‘Pay the bonuses and attract the professional expertise that will help you recover your reputation but face ongoing damage to your brand and reputation by paying the bonuses’.

So here’s the conundrum. What is the purpose of a bank? To ‘let people achieve their ambitions’?  To ‘deliver expert relationship banking’? To ‘work with clients as strategic partners’? Let’s be frank here – most people believe that the purpose of bank is to make money. And lets be honest – banks make money out of money. That’s the job. And how do you incentivize staff to do a great job in a bank – you give them money. You do what the organisation does – you reward money making with money. That is the traditional way things are done. For many, that is why they are in banking – to make money. The bonus culture sits at the heart of investment banks. Bonus’s and the promise of them pump the blood through the system.

Reputation, however, is judged on what you do rather than what you say you are going to do. It’s based on action and not words. Image is of course important. We are nearly all suckers for something that looks new, even if fundamentally it’s not – Apple be warned! Image and words play a role particularly in the early stages of any relationship – but over time it is who you really are, what you think, what you do and how you do it that really matters. Ultimately our Judgement of each other, of the products and services we use and the organisations who provide them is shaped by our experiences.

Crucially these experiences – positive or negative – can be shared within nano seconds with millions of people. The information technology that powers banks also connects us all also allows us to judge together and to take action together. We can switch from one provider to another in most sectors pretty rapidly. Of course it’s a pain and those that stand in the way of the general direction of travel can delay and disrupt our freedom to choose, but inevitably this will change. One of the greatest benefits of technology is the empowerment of individuals to make choices but to thrive transparency and trust need to reign. The corporations that get this, that understand the consequences of standing in the way are now scrambling to show how transparent they can be. They are busy setting up ethics committees, defining new values and engaging agencies to bring to life supporting stories that demonstrate through every media channel available that it’s not all about profit after all – its about purpose. It’s not about shareholder value its about making customers happy.

So in a world that is increasingly saying what matters now are values and ethics the greatest challenge banks face is how they balance a bonus culture with an ethics culture. Can you have both? I believe that it is possible but it will take major systemic reform and it will take time, effort, determination and above all leadership. It is often touted that recognition is more important than reward. Within the banking sector I think that what is recognised (and what is not) is one part of a puzzle that will take some time to solve.


Graham Ward is a consultant at Kets de Vries Institute (http://www.kdvi.com)

Graham Ward
Graham Ward

An Adjunct Professor of Leadership at INSEAD Business School in France, his expertise is in leadership, high performance teams, group dynamics, team dysfunction and change. His doctoral dissertation, published in 2013 is a theory of small group executive coaching using a psychodynamic approach. Teaching modules include the psychology of leadership, the application of fair process in teams, sustainable relationship building and developing high performance teams and culture in organizational life.

He teaches regularly at INSEAD on a number of executive programs and
is the INSEAD Global Leadership Centre Coaching Practice Director for the Transition to General Management (TGM) and LFR (Leading for Results). Graham has also worked in the same role on many company specific programs including KPMG, Microsoft, Pfizer, Daimler Chrysler, TNK/BP, HSBC, Ernst and Young and SAP. Moreover he has also worked as visiting faculty on the Advance Management Program at Stockholm School of Economics in Sweden, Moscow Higher School of Economics and ESMT in Berlin.

Outside of INSEAD, he specializes in coaching C-suite executives and consulting around team dysfunctions Graham spent 22 years in finance, 16 of which working for Goldman Sachs, where for seven years he co-led the European Equity business. In 2000, Graham spearheaded an initiative to introduce a Global Leadership Development office that he led for three years. At GS he was head of diversity for the Division and led the Women’s Committee from inception, also instigating other minority networks.

Graham was speaker at the 2007 EMCC annual conference on the subject of Group Leadership Coaching and in 2001 on the subject of Mentoring for Change. In 2013 he spoke at The School of Management Science, India on Spiritual Leadership. He is an affiliate member of the APA (American Psychological Association), and a member of the ISPSO (International Society for the Psychoanalytic Study of Organizations).

Graham received his Ph.D. from the Vrije University in Amsterdam in 2014. He holds an M.Sc. and Diploma from HEC/INSEAD (2002) in Clinical Organizational Psychology. In 1994 he received a Diploma of Investment Management from London Business School.

He is licensed to use the MBTI, The Leadership Circle, GELI, LAQ, Personality Audit and Cultural Audit. Graham was contributing author to the books Coach and Couch, the Psychology of Making Better Leaders published in 2007 and the Coaching Kaleidoscope published in 2010. He authored the academic paper Towards Executive Change (2008) and The Use of Transitional Space (2009).

He is currently a board member of Hampstead Capital Global Hedge Fund, listed on the Irish Stock Exchange and Senrigan Capital based in Hong Kong.

Privately he has worked with senior executives at McKinsey, Siemens, Bristol Myers Squibb, Axa, Aviva, HSBC, Tesco, AstraZeneca, Deutsche Bank, E.On, UBS, Shell and BP among others. McKinsey &Co retains him in their European leadership coaching pool.

Graham, 50, lives on the Stockholm Archipelago with his wife and four children He travels extensively, recently visiting North Korea and Syria amongst other places.

Neil Gaught is founder and CEO of Neil Gaught& Associates (www.neilgaught.com)

Over the past 20 years, Neil has worked on strategic brand reputation and positioning projects for Standard Chartered Bank, Merrill Lynch, De Beers, OECD, the World Bank, CRS, CARE, Alliance for Financial Inclusion and Global Communities. With a career as both an independent consultant and also at a senior level, his strategy has been implemented globally at WPP’s Brand Union and Interbrand.

His expertise spans corporations, NGOs, government institutions and start-up enterprises. CEOs and senior leadership teams engage him for brand reputation management, positioning, culture change, operational decisions, staff engagement and communications.

Neil’s strategy has been developed over many years and his first-hand global experience and cultural awareness has helped him refine and apply his proven approaches for clients in over 40 countries.

During a period in New Zealand he advised many top corporations and public-sector bodies on brand strategy and reputation management including AMI, Contact Energy, Kordia, Air New Zealand plus various start-up enterprises and local/national Government institutions.