Monday, 26 July 2010

Problems of the finance worlds culture club (or lack thereof)

Reading Andrew Ross Sorkin's 'Too Big to Fail' recently, it reminded me how close the global economy seemingly came to spinning of its axis.

Yet despite his worrying (and entertaining) account of what happened Sorkin was recently suggesting that there might be a danger of too much regulation being placed on those in the financial sector.

Aside from market constraints, the issues of regulation in reward is one of interest to HR practitioners - specifically, what was its roles in trying to fight/inadvertedly supporting the circumstances in which individuals and organisations were encouraged to take on such risk? As well as this, what should be the lessons that are applied in the future to avoid such a culture being fostered?

It should be mentioned that I have no experiece of working in a HR function in the financial services and from the outside looking in, it seems a catch 22 - fight the culture and you are in danger of falling behind more willing comepetitors and disenfranchise shareholders; allow the status quo to continue and there is the danger you allow circumstances to return back to the financial tsunami which we are still clawing our way back from.

Arguably it all comes down to values - what is the purpose of your role in an organisation and what are the principles which you need to apply day to day to what you do. Easier said than done no doubt and it might be argued that to think suich a mindset is possible in the sector and it is naive to think so.

However, there were some that managed to keep their head above water during the crisis. Referring to Sorkin's book again, my favourite segment was reading how staff at Lehman Brothers applauded members of senior management at one point when they were able to sell of elements of the business to Barclays, saving thousands of jobs in the process.

Sounds like it could have been the TUPE from hell! What would have been interesing to hear is whether there was some form of induction for those staff taken under the Barclays wing to perhaps address any differences in corporate culture, approaches to risk and deals, etc.

The issue of culture - so hard to pind down how it is specically created -  is something that was suggested as being more of a problem than the actual remuneration issues, as suggested by People Management in 2009.

But how do you battle organisational culture which requires some risk, when its comeptitors have no problem with doing so? Answers on a postcard to messrs Obama, Cameron, et al.

In the meantime here is what the Telegraph's guide to how the EU is responding.

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