Generally speaking, I am not a fan of banks. I feel that most of them are greedy, self-centered and I can’t help but think that many of them are somehow supporting regimes that put guns in the hands of children. Therefore, I bank with an institution that has an ethical policy. I have been with this bank for about ten years. Over that time the only thing that has remained good about them in my eyes are those ethical policies. The rest of the organisation seems to be either in stasis or actually getting worse – bad interest rates, increasingly poor customer service and most recently and annoyingly an increase in price to ring them up and get some service.
The increase in price to call these guys is, in the grand scheme of things, not that big. The number has gone from and 0845 number (2p/min) to an 0844 number (“no more than 5.1p/min”). However, what I object to is not being actively told, but passively told. I saw a small advert on their website telling me of the change, but don’t remember an email, or a text – so it feels like they are trying to sneak it in under the radar.
Anyway, being annoyed about that and not liking banks much to begin with, I decided that I need to look around for an alternative. That’s when I remembered Handelsbanken. Now, I am not sure if Handelsbanken have an ethical policy, but what they might just be is an Agile Bank. Now why do I say that?
So, the first thing that makes me think this is that they have a model of de-centralisation. The branch is the bank. This ties in to their “Church Spire” policy – the idea that your domain is what you can see from the top of the local Church. In practice this means that you have to bank with your local branch and you have to have a personal relationship with an individual at the bank. The personal approach also means you get fast feedback – crucial to any real Agile process.
Secondly, “profitability is always given higher priority than volumes” – they want to get it right and they are committed to getting something small right first before they try to be everything to everyone. They have a vision and they stick to it, they take baby steps.
They also listen to their customers. This is reflected in the fact that in Great Britain, Handelsbanken has been ranked top for customer satisfaction and loyalty in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Here is a quote I have shamelessly stolen from their website:
Handelsbanken’s UK Chief Executive Anders Bouvin comments: “Handelsbanken’s current and future success in the UK depends on our clear focus on customer satisfaction. Our experienced branch teams have real power to listen to a customer’s needs, use their initiative and local knowledge and make decisions for long-term mutual benefit. We don’t set sales targets or pay performance bonuses which could distort this focus. Nor do we operate credit-scoring or remote call centres, because our customers have never asked for them.”
That’s refreshing. A bank that does what it’s users want, not a load of industry standard stuff that no one really understands because they are just guessing.
So then I started to look at Handelsbanken’s values. Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather. They are so close to the Scrum Values (Courage, Focus, Openness, Commitment and Respect) I had to pause to take it in:
- Trust and respect
- Responsibility – think independently
- Being a role model – practice what you learn
- Long-term perspective
- Holistic perspective – seeing your own role in the group and continuously contribute to improvements.
Finally, Handelsbanken talks of how “Together we can do it“. Now, I have to be honest, I am not sure what it is. But I am pretty sure it’s not about supporting dictators or giving kids guns – this is because they talk about how every part of the chain – and every person is important. They appreciate that to “achieve customer satisfaction we need knowledge, experience and genuine commitment.” They appear to expect this from their customers as well as their staff.
So, I may not like my bank any more. And I may be hard pushed to find one that has such a clear ethical policy – but what I think I may have found is a bank that appeals to my values and that maybe, without knowing it, is actually an Agile bank.
I’ll go and see them and if I meet their acceptance criteria I will let you know how it works out.