“INTELLIGENT THINKING, INTELLIGENT ACTION” in Private Banking A CASE STUDY in People Development with measurable and significant financial results! by Maria Biquet


In Leadership Development and People Development most of us Consultants and Coaches have interesting cases to share and learn from each other. I would like to share my experience of a project that was completed at the start of 2019 and I believe is really worth analyzing because of its proven financial results.

The main idea/intention/need was to bring Energy, Innovation and Action to the team. Not an easy task especially in the context of a very big conservative Bank.

Our assignment became a real “Game Changer”

The Client is the Private Banking Division of a large Bank that has merged and absorbed other banks in the last decade. The Director of this Division needed to change the mentality and behavior of his people. Being a real “Game Changer” himself he wanted to see change immediately in his people; he wanted them to have high energy and perform.

The duration of the project could not exceed 4 months and should include everyone in the department.

Meeting the purpose and expectations

From our initial meetings it was clear from the outset that the purpose of the project was to increase energy in the system and make people think differently, create new ideas and act.

The need of the team was:

a.       align in a higher level of energy together and at the same time
b.      learn to be open to change and learn to innovate.

Our client expected his teams, by the end of the program, to have absorbed and incorporated this ‘higher level of energy’ in their way of working that exceeded the current ways of being in the work environment and become more innovative as individuals and as a team.

Our “Code 15” methodology, personal involvement and the future

Diagnostics and findings

The organization had merged (acquired) another 6 smaller banks in the last years and most of the employees coming from those Banks were demoted to lower roles and positions and therefore were disappointed and demotivated.

The culture in the Bank apart from hierarchical and conservative was mostly ruled by interventions by political acquaintances that would promote specific people to higher positions or even to middle management roles; therefore, people without political connections would have very limited chances for progress and promotion.

Recognising the culture, we needed to find ways to inject energy into the system required us to use a methodology based on a systemic approach. Therefore, we analysed the system and perform our diagnostics in order to understand what sort of interventions we should introduce. We also used our methodology of “Code 15” to instigate new thinking, energy and action.

In our case, we found out that the system was

  • very hierarchical,

  • bound to processes and procedures,

  • with overlapping roles and responsibilities;

some of the basic functions that affected directly the customer experience belonged to different Divisions within the Bank which made it very difficult for the people to control the process and the result,

We also found:

  • lack of responsibility

  • lack of ownership

  • reluctance to innovate or propose new ideas and solutions

  • focus and priority to internal processes instead of focus and priority on the client

  • coupled with fear and disappointment because of explicit politics that were ruling the whole organization.

The fear, apart from the previous reasons, was a result of big changes not only in the Bank and the merge of all the Banks into one, but also by the fact that Banking sector had changed completely in the country in the last 10 years of the crisis, with tenths of thousands of jobs lost and with a future that was not very promising for the “old school” of Banking.

The idea was to make people ACT in a DIFFERENT way NOW. Who, what and how

From our diagnostics, and consulting with our client following the debrief, we all decided that a new behavior needed to be built that would have immediate results and people would be able to feel it, see it, like it and enjoy it.

Our client who is the Head of the Division is a very open minded person who wanted to change everything at once. So he was very open to our ideas and programme but he also demanded results from the first day and would become very anxious and impatient with people when they didn’t respond immediately.

So, on the one hand we had a very supportive client, open minded and positive to change; that was the most important aspect of our success because we were free to design and deliver the programme in the most appropriate way for the team. He has also involved  e v e r y o n e   in the team from the lowest to the highest level so that everybody had access to a new way of thinking and action. He has also involved his General Manager (his own supervisor) so that he had the support of the Board of the Bank.

On the other hand, we had to provide him with very intensive “personal coaching” to make him allow his people time to absorb the new ideas and start experimenting without criticizing or discouraging them.

Expected and unexpected reactions: Begins with personal development and connecting to group/team solutions

People were expecting another “as usual” training and were a bit surprised to realize that the whole programme was based on their participation and contributions. Every step of the way in delivering the programme we took a coaching approach that enabled personal development and facilitated process change with tangible results.

What they were not expecting was that we were there to support them to think of new ideas and most importantly make them take action now. At every team session we would check on their progress while providing new tools on innovation and personal development. So, they were interested personally because every time they would get a new tool to improve themselves and at the same time they were making progress toward an idea that they had presented in a previous workshop.

We expected a lot of resistance and of course we got a lot of it. The fear that existed in the system was maintaining the “Don’t change” Culture and therefore they would say “we can’t innovate” “we can’t change anything because of strict regulations and heavy administration”. With time and space, shifts began to happen whereby they have started talking to each other about possible solutions that they had never discussed before.

And in the follow up sessions evolved to a laboratory of new ideas where everybody was asked to speak and participate and then plan the implementation of a very small personal change, what we call “a fractal”. Eventually everybody was discussing about their own “fractals” and how that helped them improve their everyday work.

The real bonus – the really unexpected - was that they started cooperating as groups or teams to implement their ideas and taking responsibility and ownership in their new changes and projects. Each person contributed with one action that was easy and feasible for them and in the end we got great results in just four months of intervention. Paying attention to what each individual needed is integral to a big change programme.

Measured Results (based on KPI’s):

In four months of intervention in the Division’s Sales teams the following KPIs had improved on average by:

  • +25% Transactions

  • +25% clients contacts (by phone)

  • +15% clients meetings

  • +12% improvement in compliance documents

How they achieved this we share in more detail below:

A new way to run a happy and productive meeting.

They changed the structure and style of their Weekly meetings to encourage younger people to contribute with new ideas. The new structure includes:

  • Brainstorming on new ideas for process improvement

  • “Superlinear meeting” of 30 minutes to think of a new innovative ways to further improve Customer Service – with priority to the youngest members of the team

  • Alignment between them about market news, client news, Banking news and sharing good practices as well as discussing with colleagues about ideas and solutions to difficult cases.

  • As a result of those meetings two of the Sales Teams reorganized their roles internally to fit better each person’s potential:

  • Introduced an internal Re-organization of types of Personal Bankers (hunters & farmers = more aggressive & more conforming)

  • A new role for specific Administrative and Compliance support was created and assigned to one person in the team, which saved 1 hour per day per Private Banker and 5 hours/week which resulted in more client meetings  and more transactions

  • Internal reorganization changed the role of 2 of the Heads of Sales teams who got more actively involved in serving special categories of clients and increased transactions as well.

New Style of Communication

The learnings from our “Code 15” were also applied in their communication with clients after they understood practically the value of some “fractals”:

  • Their communication to the client became warmer and friendlier by: more open questions, more meetings, more phone calls and more “excellent service surprises”.

  • They introduced their “personal quality survey” by asking for feedback from their clients in a polite and clever way to find out in which areas they might need to improve.

  • About 45% of the Private Bankers rebranded themselves and reintroduced themselves adopting the idea of “excellent personal service”.

Operations and Compliance: the most difficult team that made us proud!

The Operations and Compliance Department were maybe the most reluctant to change. They were split into small groups with monotonous tasks that were linked to other functions of the Bank outside of the Private Banking and rarely interconnected.

They appeared to be one team because they were reporting to the same Manager but they all said that they are not a team because their tasks are different. They were also the more reactive to any change and to any new idea because their job is to follow specific detailed processes, rules and laws; their job is to apply regulations.

We presented them “Code 15”, the idea of “fractals” and “Superlinearity” and made each of them so personal to each of them that some of them started trying little changes. In the end they came up with:

  • A completely new process for the flow of requests towards major central units of the Bank (custody, legal, operational centers)

  • Took the initiative to start scheduling meetings with other related Divisions of the Bank to exchange best practices and know how

  • Started to run an internal research  in the Bank to get new ideas for improvements and find out how to improve their service to internal clients (basically the Personal Bankers, the Legal and Governance Dpts)

  • And the most impressive of all: in our last workshop they said: “now we know we are ONE team providing the most important service to our internal clients!”

Final thoughts

The whole project was much more successful than we expected given the difficulty of the context. We realized that people can be very open and positive even to advanced tools and methodologies like our “Code 15” when we adapt them to their personal needs.

We really enjoyed working with all the teams who gradually achieved the highest quality of teamwork. We engaged with them, supported them in every small or big issue and gained their trust; in fact we became part of the “family”. Our close connection with each one of them together with the “Code 15” were the secret recipe for excellent results!

To connect with Maria Biquet