A bank is just three things
‘There’s not much to a bank you know, except its licence, its computer systems and its reputation.’
That’s what Mark Taylor, the ex-CEO of Barclays, said just after the Libor scandal story broke.
Now, everyone knows trust is the beating heart of banking. Without it, a bank has nothing. It’s dead. So it’s not surprising that amid the recent crises, the chief exec’s offices at RBS, Barclays, HSBC and now Standard Chartered downed tools to set about rescuing the banks’ reputations. They were desperate to claw back the credibility lost in the IT glitches, the Libor rate-fixing scam, the money laundering scandal and now, fresh for August, these undeclared transactions with Iran.
The CEOs themselves appear. They say sorry. They say they’ll fix things. The trouble is, often it’s just short-term damage limitation work.
But you can lose your reputation in an instant. Winning it back takes much longer, and can depend on the tiny details.
These crises are a beautiful opportunity to take the bull by the horns and change the culture of the bank from the inside out in a way that will stand the test of time.
Now we would say this, wouldn’t we, but language is one of the best tools any bank has to do that. It’s a reputation-building Swiss army knife.
The thing is, language is in everything a bank does. Right in the internal belly of the bank, it’s the emails each employee writes, it’s every HR document, it’s the policies, the intranet, even the employee welcome pack. Those nooks and crannies of the bank are the culture its people experience every day.
And on the outside it’s far more than the veneer of advertising. It’s the website, the press releases, the letters to customers and clients, how the bank writes to you when you make a complaint, and the Ts and Cs on the very back page of the current account brochure.
The global bank that takes its language seriously will find their reputation rising head and shoulders above the rest at a time like this.
Who’s it going to be?