Bankers “must be better citizens” says Bob Diamond, Barclays CEO

The mighty and revered CEO came down from the 37th floor unto Human Resources and sayeth:  “I commandeth you to transform the culture of this organization and launch it upon a sea of greatness!”

And Human Resources bowed and replied: “Are you out of your mind!”

Several months ago I wrote a blog on the culture of banking: Why Banks Should Focus on Culture, Now More Than Ever.  To me the logic is clear.  Reputation with consumers and the public is one of the key differentiators between banks and by building strong internal corporate cultures based on service and professional stewardship, banks can begin to reverse the enormous negative brand image and return to the position of trusted institutions.

Well, for the past several months, it seems like no one has been listening to the importance of culture.  Following my initial banking blogs I wrote several others after witnessing poor leadership behavior in several large financial institutions.  Here are a few of them:

The courage (?) of banking leadership.   Another clue that big banks are doomed.   Is the culture of banking broken?     Leadership courage and the culture of banking.

Well, surprise, surprise!!  It was announced today that Barclay’s CEO, Bob Diamond, will say in a BBC lecture that bankers “had to become better citizens” and that it is vital for banks to win back the trust of the public.

Great stuff.  Now comes the hard part, leadership.  Since it is clear to those of us who have been helping reshape corporate cultures for the past several decades that “organizations are shadows of their leaders” I will wait to see what new cultural behaviors Mr. Diamond and his senior executive team are going to display before I get too excited about banks really changing their culture.

All the fancy marketing slogans and massive amounts of money on PR won’t shift the real drivers of culture: leadership behavior and business processes.  When they want to charge customers for using Debit Cards I have a pretty good indication of the culture those kinds of business processes signify.  And when top banking executives agree to a $200+M fine from the SEC but neither accept or deny guilt, I have a pretty good indication of the openness and accountability of the banking culture.

However, if banks really want to reshape their culture and win back customer trust and public respect, it is possible, but it will take real leadership, not speeches.

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

E |      T | +44 207 584 3774      M | +44 7833 493 999

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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