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Culture – From Boring To Buzzword In No Time

The last couple of weeks have seen more skirmishes in the “culture wars”. 

The first shots were fired by a Four Corners Programme that disclosed that the Commonwealth Bank’s insurance subsidiary, Comminsure, had used dodgy methods to avoid paying claims. A poor culture within Comminsure was quickly blamed.

The issues have been smouldering for years, but now that full scale conflict has broken out, it looks like being a protracted campaign. No doubt there will be moments of tension, drama, high farce and even, yes, humour (in fact a sense of humour may be an essential survival mechanism).

 The modern day relationship between financial service providers and their clients is characterised by multiple shades of grey, and is definitely not black and white. There are complexities and ambiguities everywhere. To negotiate this maze, and treat clients fairly, the bank or other service provider must have the right culture. Bear in mind that the sort of culture we are talking about is the sort that drives organizational behaviour, based on the values and norms of the organisation. We are not talking about culture as in history, art, music etc. (Isn’t English wonderful. One word with two very different meanings).

It is early days yet, but on one reading, it seems that “culture” is something to which Corporate Elites have paid little attention. I suspect that many have only a very vague idea as to what it is. It will fascinating watching how they handle it.

There have already been examples of delightful irony. One vocal advocate of better corporate cultures has been ASIC. Then last week out came a report into ASIC, saying that they needed to do some serious work on their culture (too inward looking and reactive, the report said). OUCH. Bet that wasn’t in their script.


The Culture Of Banks?????
Happy to see The Australian Financial Review print...

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