New Ways of Working and traditional banks: a premise for total transformation

Using digital tools, re-designing workspaces and giving the organisation a thorough overhaul, are solutions that provide evidence of how New Ways of Working (NWOW) have made their way into traditional banking. As demonstrated in our previous article, these banks have given much thought to the changes that need to be put into place. But are these measures enough to stop today’s young workers from losing all interest in the sector? Could these measures put an end to the management crisis, making it more in line with the trends of its time? Nothing could be more uncertain. It’s difficult to draw a conclusion about NWOW because they are still a relatively new phenomenon. However, we can ask questions on their real reach, the way in which they are implemented, and the main challenges traditional banks are faced with. 

Measuring the reach of New Ways of Working – a still complicated exercise

We’ve already seen how banking is one of the sectors most greatly affected by the baby-boomer generation going on retirement. According to an INSEE study, an estimated 35% will head for retirement before 2020. But that’s not all they need to worry about – what about the leaving rate of young hires? In its latest report of the situation of staff, new hires and leavers in the banking sector, the French Banking Association (Association française des banques, AFB) points out the increase in resignations between 2014 and 2016, from 24.8% to 31.1% respectively. New Ways of Working offer a way of confronting this problem, by attracting and keeping young employees. But is it really enough? In spite of efforts made by some banks in terms of NWOW the latest ranking of companies preferred by students only include 3 banks amongst the 50 winners: BNP Paribas in 19th place, Société Générale in 38th, and HSBC coming in at 47th. The divide is apparent. It isn’t simply a matter of digitalisation or developing shared workspaces, it’s a much broader problem.

NWOW and QWL – a winning combo

What level of importance do banks put on Quality of Working Life (QWL) for their workers? How do they enable their employees to harmonise their work life and personal life? How can they guarantee a better working environment for their staff, and enable them to build their career in the company? Such are the questions that QWL can answer. As Anne Lebel, HR Director at Natixis explains, “the quality of working life is an important means of engagement and wellbeing for employees. It contributes to their loyalty and Natixis’ attractiveness.” In 2016, the company launched the Work & Life at Natixis programme. The goal? To define a general framework to encourage any initiatives that aim to develop the company’s way of working. Also following the trend is French bank Société Générale, with its Life at Work programme. QWL doesn’t go against NWOW, but actually backs them up and repositions them in a more global framework, benefiting everyone. The notion of “benefits for all” is really key here, because the risk of NWOW creating disparities between colleagues is there. Implementing such projects can cause real divides in the workplace.

Guiding digital transformation

Using tablets, setting up a digital signature, reorganising bank branches by creating self-service and customer greeting areas: all these changes not only have an impact on the customer relationship but also on the Customer Adviser, as you will have read in our previous article. To ensure that these changes are well managed, their implementation must be guided through. We have set out 3 key pointers for guiding you through the process:

  • Involve employees from the very early stages;
  • Communicate regularly on changes, their benefits and their progress;
  • Allow employees to express their concerns and apprehensions with understanding.

Digitalisting a company by introducing smart devices is good, but ingraining digitalisation into the company’s DNA is even better. Moreover, flexioffices are necessary but being convinced by the benefits of teamwork is essential. How can we achieve this? Simply by allowing employees to open up to digitalisation, which can be done by attending events dedicated to the subject, for instance. Better still, by using actual situations to bring about solutions, collectively of course, either in terms of work scheduling or moving premises.

Go even further for complete transformation

Financial markets, as well as regulatory and technological developments, are such that today’s banking sector is faced with a vulnerable, complex, uncertain environment, and one that’s constantly changing. Not giving into this environment requires drastic transformations, through creativity and boldness. NWOW are just one step towards this transformation. Traditional banks must nonetheless go even further by reinventing their service offer, as much in their internal set-up as in the services that they offer their customers.

Shift towards agility to control uncertainty

In an environment where everything is moving and the rhythm is intense, the issue isn’t knowing whether the Customer Adviser is doing their work well (or not), it is knowing whether they can adapt to the imminent changes in their position later on. The skills they have today may not be the skills they need tomorrow. How can banks guide their employees in this context? By shifting towards ‘agility’, putting the employees at the centre of all their moves. For Frédéric Oudéa, MD of Société Générale, “all companies are trying to be more agile by reducing administrative and hierarchical structures.” We know about agility in managing IT projects, but what about agility across the whole company? It’s a matter of breaking down the services and the hierarchical structures, injecting a strong dose of collaborative ways of thinking and moving forward in project mode. It’s exactly this agile mode that Crédit Agricole adopted to launch Freasy, an online banking service for the 18-30s. But in practice, how can we reposition employees to put them at the centre of a company’s actions? Allowing individual expression, encouraging initiatives, making employees more responsible, and offering a career path that doesn’t rely on set skills but ability, are all ways of giving employees the right tools to progress.

Innovate to stay ahead

BPCE plans to close 400 branches. LCL will close 240 by the end of 2019. For Société Générale and BNP Paribas, 20% of their branches will close their doors by 2020. In parallel to these announcements from the traditional banks, online banks have taken 14% market share over the last 3 years. In this context, banks have no other option than to reposition themselves as leaders in innovation. As François Pérol, President of the Board at BCPE, sums up: “fintechs are a part of our R&D and our ability to innovate.” In concrete terms, the group has applied an offensive start-up acquisition policy, buying out Pot Commun in 2015 and Depopass in 2016. But BPCE isn’t alone in leading strategy, as BNP Paribas recently bought Compte-Nickel. Traditional banks have understood that fintechs aren’t a threat but actually an opportunity. Supporting their growth and observing their business model is helping banks to diversify their service offer, taking inspiration from the best practices on the market, without running the risk of causing an internal earthquake.

The banking model of tomorrow will be digital, in the “technologically powerful” sense of the word, being multi-channel, multi-format and equipped with a more flexible, responsive, and collaborative structure. It will have surrounded itself with a real ecosystem of businesses and will be able to offer its customers a multitude of banking services. But to be successful in the face of these challenges, the bank of tomorrow will be a bank that has been able to put its employees at the heart of its strategy. New Ways of Working are an important key to unlocking this success and will serve as programmes that will completely reinvent the banking sector.

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Laura Fernandez & Christelle Koffi & Marine Pauthier

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