In October one of our Country’s biggest banks was fined for the widespread, illegal practice of secretly opening unauthorized deposit and credit card accounts. Employees of the bank opened more than 2 million deposit and credit card accounts that were unauthorized by their customers. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau stated that the primary cause of this was a high-pressure sales culture that motivated employees to do anything they could to hit their sales targets and receive bonuses.
This announcement and the press coverage that followed gave me the opportunity for reflection on the importance of organizational culture, specifically the values and behaviors that contribute to the unique environment of organizations. As I reflected on what kind of culture enables this to happen in a bank, I then re-read the “Cornerstones” of the First National Bank that defines who we are, what our values are, and what behaviors we exhibit. Two foundations of these Cornerstones stood out to me: 1. We test every decision against a high standard of ethics…. JUST DO WHAT’S RIGHT!! 2. We are accountable, both individually and as a group, to the responsibilities entrusted to us…..We own the results!
Adam Grant, the author of the book Give and Take, distinguishes organizational culture into GIVERS and TAKERS. In a “giver culture,” people operate by helping others, sharing knowledge, offering mentoring, and making connections even without anything in return. In a “taker culture,” the norm is to get as much as possible from others while contributing less in return, and the winners are those who take the most and can build their power at the expense of others. It is apparent that this big bank had either encouraged or at least did not discourage a taker culture to develop within their organization.
This was another reminder to me that we need to reinforce a “giver culture” to always put the best interest of our customers and one another first, and to do so with INTEGRITY! While we certainly want all of First National Bank’s team members to build and grow more customer relationships, our first priority must be to put the benefit and care of our customers first. Doing so results in relationships that are built to last, whether that be in a customer relationship, a personal friendship or marriage. This does not mean we just serve customers and don’t sell our services. To not educate our customers on all the services First National Bank can provide them and the value we can provide to them is a disservice to the customer. However, this big bank had obviously allowed many of their employees and managers to put selling a product as the first and maybe even the only priority.
Serving the customer and one another with integrity at First National Bank must always be our first priority! Not only is that the right thing to do, but it is also in our long-term best interest.
Sam T. Sicard is President/C.E.O. of the First National Bank of Fort Smith and First Bank Corp., the holding company for the First National Bank, Citizens Bank & Trust Company of Van Buren, and BHC Insurance. Sam is married with two children and serves as Chair of the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce, and also serves on the Board of the Fort Smith Public Schools Foundation, Fort Smith Boys and Girls Club, the UAFS Foundation, the U. S. Marshals Museum, and the Children’s Emergency Shelter Foundation. Sam also serves on the Central Business Improvement District, 64.6 Downtown, the Fort Smith Regional Council, Fort Smith Regional and Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, Step Up Speak Out and the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board. Sam has also served as past chairman of many other organizations such as the United Way.