As is the case in many countries, in Australia too, there is
a banking crisis. The primary cause for this crisis, like other places, is the greed
of senior management. The money that senior
managers have managed to amass has ballooned over the last forty years, not
because these bankers are more talented now, but because their greed has become
While this greed of bankers is the primary driver of the
global banking crisis, there are other reasons as well. Digital technology is
dehumanizing work. It is removing all connections between the producer and the
that 50,000 people come to work every day at ANZ,” Australian ANZ Bank Chief Shayne
Elliott explains. “Less than 20 percent
of them ever see a customer. They don't
see a customer. Most of these people don't
work in branches."
The problem is becoming worse. Today, far fewer banking
staff work in branches than ten years ago. In another ten years’ time, who knows if branches will even continue to exist.
"So, we kind of dehumanize
the work, and we've compartmentalized it,
so it's very unclear to me, the impact of
what I do,” Elliott explains. "It's
easier—and I'm not excusing it, I'm not rationalizing it—to say, 'Well, I can
put up a bit of a mask and revert the rules saying I have to do this; the rules
say I have to repossess the farm. It's
difficult for me to emotionally engage in that situation.'"
Humanizing work is expensive. You are not going to reach your
aggressive, unrealistic, short-term targets, which your fat bonuses depend on,
if you allow too much humanizing.
Technology is cheap. Humans are expensive. Isn’t that how the thinking goes?
The new breed of bankers looks
at technology from the perspective of cost minimization. It’s all about saving time and money. They
hollow out their organizations into technological shells, in which the staff spends far more time interacting with numbers,
code, and content than they do with their customers. After all, looking after
customers requires spending time with them and caring about their needs.
If you want to rise in
the ranks of senior management in banking today, you must be a predator. I
have watched people, who have tried to sell me
dodgy products, get promoted, while people, who have genuinely helped me, remained stagnant in their careers. That’s the reality of banking in Ireland,
Australia, everywhere, and it is driven
by a toxic combination of cost-minimization, technology, and senior managements’
One problem for banks is that an increasing number of their
customers have started noticing that they are dealing with predatory institutions
whose only loyalty is to that fat bonus they can make. As these banks hollow
out their organizations, making them leaner and meaner, they hollow out their
Relationships are hard to build, but loyalty is still a
great concern. Trust is very important when it comes to finances. There are
still opportunities for banks that genuinely care about their customers, who
believe that the best way to be successful is by making the customer
That requires a completely different culture and mindset. It
requires thinking about the long term. It requires ensuring that as many
employees as possible have regular, real experiences of what it is like for
their customers to experience the products and services that these employees create.