Sunday, July 7, 2013

Cultural change in banking – How bankers become good citizens

Banking is turning upside down. New regulation, new businesses, new ways of doing business! Nothing is as it was before and, obviously, everything is changing for the better...

Let's take the example of Deutsche Bank.

In a press conference on January 31, 2013, Deutsche Bank's CEOs Jürgen Fitschen and Anshu Jain focused (admittedly, at the end of their presentation) on the cultural change at Deutsche Bank in the near, mid and long term:

  • Long-term orientation and sustainability
  • Client focus
  • Teamwork and partnership

Additional elements, discussed in a presentation on May 23, 2013, include Deutsche Bank's remuneration policy and its “red flag monitoring system”.

This sounds good, doesn't it?

Working for corporate and investment bank, I have also made my cultural change experience this year. The change is actually imposed by the French regulator on anybody who has changed function in the finance industry since mid 2010 and has direct client contact in his new function:

On May 24, 2013, I receive a letter from a finance training and consulting firm. I am kindly asked to prepare an exam organized by the French regulator, AMF, on July 5, 2013. The consulting firm will provide e-learning tools, documentation, and multiple choice questions to train me.

I am wondering: Is that really necessary?

I spend 5 minutes checking the underlying regulation. However, as this is (once again) very complex (different categories of people subject to different kinds of exams, different institutions authorizing and then providing the contents, etc.), I close my web browser quickly and call up the consulting firm. Friendly, but tenaciously, Julie, a member of the AMF Certification Team with the consulting firm, insists on her firm’s business model: “As you have changed function recently, this is mandatory for you!”

I call a few colleagues and get confirmation: The exam has been put in place in July 2010 as a reaction to the financial crisis. It is meant to ensure that people working in the financial sector enhance their competence and work ethics.

Next, I connect to my on-line account with the training firm to see what needs to be done. The first thing I see is a 300 pages long pdf document. I begin to get angry and decide to turn my attention to my work again.

Some weeks go by and, by mid-June, I decide to take up my preparation for the exam.

I start reading the pdf document and realize that it is about everything in finance – from banking over asset and fund management to financial markets. Much of the content is regulatory, some of it also commercial. I start reading or, rather, skimming through the document and am positively surprised as it is very well done. Nevertheless, as I have already learned all this at some time, I definitely lack motivation. Is my formerly acquired knowledge still present? Will it be sufficient to pass the exam?

The e-learning tools consist actually of animated slides. They are of the type “I explain you money laundering by showing pictures of Dollar bags lying on beaches of paradisiacal islands”. It takes certainly lots of time to produce these slides. But is it really useful?

The last part of the learning material turns out being most useful (for the exam): In a student-like manner, you respond to as many multiple choice questions as possible to get a sense of how the exam actually works and to anticipate the answers to future questions.

A few days before July 5, my COO reminds me of the upcoming exam. I feel caught out and, straightaway, register for a training session the evening before the exam.

At least, this is a good occasion to see the offices of the consultant. In one of the best areas of Paris, they are quite nice and spacious. I have learned something again – I definitely didn't know that this type of training service for the finance industry pays as well as that!

The consultant has network problems and is half an hour late. Time enough to discuss a bit with my peers. Among the few people who gather, most of them has just shown up because it is mandatory.

We go through multiple choice questions with a tutor who has 25 years of experience as a French regulator. I keep thinking – “What as waste: Here you have someone who could tell you a story about what happened in the French finance industry in the last 25 years. But, instead, he leads us through multiple choice questions and, after each question, simply ticks the right box!”

The next morning is like any other morning. I get up early, prepare breakfast for the kids and bring them to school. However, instead of going to work, I will be transformed into a better front officer this morning. I answer 100 multiple choice question about the French finance industry and its regulation and am happy to see at the end, that I have passed the exam with success.

Now let's be honest: I have actually learned a few new things through this exam. But, was that really worth my time and the money of my employer?