Risk Management

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Andrew Waxman
Andrew Waxman
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This is How Banks Need to Manage People Risk

Is your bank leveraging all the key tools of manager enablement: education, preparation, incentivization and data analytics to help minimize the risk of losing your best people?

I wrote a few weeks ago about how important it is to hire the right people. It is equally important, maybe even more so, to retain the right people. This is easier said than done, particularly in the case of universal banks, with more than 100,000 employees in far flung locations. When it comes to managing people in an organization that large, companies often say the “right things” to their employees and their managers. Whether or not they follow through can be a decisive factor in retaining their employees' loyalty. When retaining experienced and knowledgeable employers is job number one for large banks, this is critical.

The challenge is a tough one when bank employees are likely to be working in a different location than their manager with potentially little day to day contact. The manager will often be the key link between the corporation and the employee but may not always be an effective one. It is critical to ask then: is your Bank leveraging all the key tools of manager enablement: education, preparation, incentivization and data analytics to help minimize the risk of losing your best people. Are managers sufficiently self-aware, adequately prepared and incentivized to do an effective job as manager? Do they have the data they need to assess their employees effectively and ensure they seek to hold on to their best people? Let’s take a closer look at each one of these questions.

First, regarding self-awareness – as overwhelmed as we all are by our day to day responsibilities, we may tend to push off the care and time our direct reports may need from us. Important issues with an employee that only a manager really understands may be pushed aside to be dealt with another day. Before you know it those issues can become major concerns and the cause of a perhaps untimely departure. A firm culture that pushes against this natural tendency is very important but also difficult to create.  Yet taking time to understand what your employees can offer — especially where natural contact is limited - and any issues they have that may be bubbling up could pay dividends down the road. For employees also, making sure they have their manager's attention by sharing accomplishments and ideas proactively – new trading products, or new trading risk controls — will also make sure they are on the radar at promotion time.

Second, how well prepared are managers to play the role of intermediary between the company and their employees? Some companies do this better than others but there is always room for improvement. That is especially true today as how we communicate and with whom we communicate is so different from the past. Employees are typically managing, from morning to night updates from multiple social media outlets via mobile devices. As such, messages from a company’s leadership can be lost in the daily data storm. Managers have the responsibility to sort through the tumult and pass on a coherent company message that reflects a company’s current priorities and strategies, recent accomplishments and expectations. Companies should help managers to fulfill this role by, as well as training them, making resources - presentations, manager playbooks and so on - as they prepare for their team meetings.

Third, are managers properly incentivized to play the manager role? How does success in playing the manager role factor into evaluation of overall performance? In sports, the role of a manager is higher profile and more keenly analyzed than probably ever before. Team managers or coaches are generally recognized as potentially making the difference between a winning team and a more average performer. Is that level of regard for the role of manager and his or her ability to get the most out of the team - reflected in corporate culture as it probably should be? 

Fourth, what data does the manager have to identify stronger employees? This is more relevant today than ever when managers are so rarely together with their employees day to day. There is a role for data analytics and big data to fill the gap but so far it is barely touching the surface.  Typically, fairly basic key metrics that go to the “bottom line” are used to evaluate performance — profit on trades for example will typically be used to judge performance of a trader while client satisfaction scores are a key metric for a client service professional. However in both these cases, such metrics are a rather blunt tool.

Good performance in the short-term may be the result of good fortune rather than the set of skills and work behaviors that will lead to success in the longer term. The ability to harvest data from client and team interactions and leverage relative score indicators are likely to provide managers with a far richer set of data points from which to draw conclusions about their employees. In addition, data that can identify data retention and employee success indicators should be harvested and help to steer the conversations between managers and employees. Big Data and the ability to harvest data on the go are key capabilities for pioneering banks today in the HR field.


As the market for professional expertise continues to tighten over the next period, companies would do well to invest in their managers. In the brave new mobile world, companies are going to need them to be good, even great, more than ever before, or they risk losing the human capital that will assure their future.

Andrew Waxman writes on operational risk in capital markets and financial services. Andrew is a consultant in IBM's US financial risk services and compliance group. The views expressed her are those of his own. As an operational risk manager, Andrew has worked at some of the ... View Full Bio
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