Most financial services companies are taking significant steps towards fostering a sound risk culture amongst their staff, according to Mercer’s latest Global Financial Services Executive Compensation Snapshot Survey.
Of the companies surveyed, 62% have carried out initiatives to penalize misconduct and non-compliance to a ‘great degree’, 60% can show evidence of setting the right tone at the top and 58% are communicating clear (risk) culture objectives.
“It’s encouraging to see companies engaging senior leaders to set an example when it comes to risk taking and compliance behaviors,” said Vicki Elliott, Senior Partner and Financial Services Talent Leader at Mercer.
”The best way to foster a sound risk culture and combat excessive risk taking is with strong, authentic leadership who are willing to manage consequences for good and bad behavior.”
Mercer research showed that rewarding positive risk behavior continues to be challenging with only a few organizations having taken these steps “to a great degree” (only 11%).
“Proactively rewarding positive risk behavior can be tricky but it is likely to have a more positive impact on culture in the long term compared to punitive measures,” said Elliott.
Experience with bonus malus
Over 90% of banks and 72% of insurance organizations have malus policies in place largely due to regulation which requires that all or a portion of deferred or unvested awards can be reduced or wiped out. Such policies are mostly triggered by individual misconduct (89%), individual breach in compliance (89%) and negative business performance (74%).
About half of banks have applied malus for individual performance reasons. However, approximately 60% of them do not retain individuals involved in malus cases, which may call into question their overall effectiveness.
Performance management changes
“Establishing an effective employee performance management system continues to be a highly challenging task for financial services organizations,” says Dirk Vink, Principal in Mercer’s Talent business. “However when done right it can have a greater impact on behavior and performance than just changing compensation plans. Performance management reform is a key lever to help manage toward desired culture change.”
In Mercer’s study, more than half responded that their performance management approach works well, though only a small proportion indicated that it delivers exceptional value.
The survey also finds that change is on the horizon, with half of all banks planning to make changes to their performance management processes in the next 12 months, this compares to just 16% of insurers. However, 32% of insurers want to change their processes but are unsure when.
Almost half of respondents indicate that their feedback process and performance management linkage to development needs work. Most banks are increasingly involving their risk management function in selecting performance measures, goal setting and performance evaluation, which is a significant development for aligning performance with sound risk-taking.
Employee value proposition beyond pay
The report found that many financial services companies have made or are making changes to their employee value proposition (EVP) beyond pay in order to better attract and retain talent who might otherwise choose not to work for them The most prevalent initiatives planned, or already in place, are learning and development programmes (47%) and remote working programmes (43%). Other popular changes include implementing career frameworks (37%), introducing flexible working (37%) and non-monetary recognition programmes (34%).
“Following the financial crisis, the reputation of traditional financial services firms suffered badly. Esteem turned to stigma as a new generation of graduates started rejecting a culture they viewed as aggressive and lacking in integrity,” said Mark Quinn, Partner and Head of Mercer’s UK Talent business.
“Banks, in particular, who have since been struggling to attract and retain the best new talent, are realizing that these so-called millennials are not just in it for the money. They look for a sense of pride and purpose in their work, as well as flexibility and career support. To attract them, companies need to develop a strong and genuine purpose-led employee value proposition.”