Republished with permission
by Ago Cluytens, on brandingthroughpeople.com
Ago Cluytens is the global head of marketing for a major international financial institution. His current responsibilities span across marketing, internal and external communications, branding and PR.
On brandingthroughpeople.com, Ago shares insights into how companies can create brand engagement through motivated and engaged employees – where marketing meets human resources.
I had an interesting conversation last week, during which I was forced to spend about ten minutes explaining why I did not agree with the statement that the finance industry was full of corrupt and money-grabbing nihilists that felt no sense of remorse about “what they did”.
It got me to thinking: why is it that the actions of an isolated few taint the perception of so many ? Even in Geneva, formerly known as the “Mecca of Private Banking”, the phrase “I work in finance” seems to have lost much of its previous lustre.
In their defence, most people I know that work in the finance industry are honest, hard-working individuals with a very healthy sense of personal responsibility and accountability.
A more than significant proportion of them have families, mortgages, drive modest cars, do yoga and try to make ends meet at the end of every month – just like the rest of the world. In current times, some of them may even fear for their own livelihood.
They try to act decisively in order to navigate through the crisis, but with respect for the assets that so many others have entrusted them with. They are accountants, auditors and desk clerks. They are not the evil army of the Antichrist, attempting to bring down the world economy.
I remember when I was back in college taking classes about media bias, i.e. how popular media distort their audience’s worldview by self-selecting stories that respond to a specific set of criteria, like reinforcing already existing views, featuring high-profile personalities, exhibiting elements of drama. Ever since, I have learnt to distrust the picture they paint of the world – “the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth”, as Neo so elegantly put it in The Matrix.
Still, as branding through people goes, the lesson is this: the actions of the few can – and in some cases, will – have a disproportionate effect on the image of the many. For all of us working in finance, it is now our shared responsibility to show the world that:
- Those that carry responsibility acknowledge their role in past events and say mea culpa
- We are all working hard very hard to ensure the current crisis is over as soon as possible, and are responsible in the actions we take, always taking into account their effects on the many that have entrusted us with their money
- We are open to measures that will prevent this from happening in the future, and will work with governments and lawmakers to ensure appropriate measures are taken and implemented
The good news is this: if it happened one way, perhaps it can also happen in the other. Recently, I have seen a very senior UBS-board member make a very apologetic stand in front of a room full of people. The result ? Applause, a lot of well-deserved respect and a sensible change in the mood in the room.
Until that happens, those of us that work in finance can take solace in the following statistic. Google “banker jokes”, and you get 522.000 results. Doing the same with “lawyer jokes” yields around 896.000 hits, or still a whopping 72% more ! Just to show you can prove anything with statistics …