Purpose in banking

How purpose drives success in banking

Bart

by Bart Lacroix

Banks have an image problem.

In the past, they were seen as centers of society that kept the system running. Banks were important. They were trusted. They helped people.

Now, however, the public and media tend to view banks in a more negative light. Despite efforts within the banking sector to make a positive impact on the world and society, these attitudes persist. With this in mind, all financial institutions must be very careful about how they communicate these efforts — which often directly relate to the concept of “purpose” — to the world.

Purpose maturity model in banking

Research from GoodUp shows that purpose initiatives in banking can be plotted into four levels of maturity.

Purpose 1.0: Corporate Giving

At this level, you’re donating money to charities. While doing so is a good deed, you’re not engaging your employees, nor do these charities have a clear link with your business. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but in times where a clear and persistent story is the standard, it is recommended to link these efforts to your corporate purpose and themes.

Purpose 2.0: Corporate Volunteering

Participating in corporate volunteering means donating time to societal projects. Bringing this to life within the walls of your bank could take the shape of foundation projects or workshops. Take it outside, and your employees could be participating in sponsored athletic events, such as a marathon or an outdoor festival. If you’re up for a challenge that’s a bit more daring, you’re joining partner organisations to participate in a larger event of potentially international scale, such as World Cleanup Day. These are great efforts, in which your employees contribute to a cause that truly matters to them, perhaps even on a personal level. Usually, however, these efforts are not related to your core business. Another missed opportunity.

Purpose 3.0: Purpose Employee Engagement

Employees contribute to your corporate purpose by sharing their personal expertise. Banks at this level have a sustainable operations program in place, and promote economic empowerment. Purpose 3.0 is a benchmark level when it comes to purpose engagement. Here, your organization will participate in fantastic initiatives that engage employees to contribute to your corporate purpose.

Purpose 4.0: Purpose Into Action

Purpose 4.0 will see you engaging customers, communities, and (supply chain) partners to transform purpose into action, while still contributing with your core expertise to be the impact multiplier. Banks at this level establish supply chain innovation programs and align with partners in initiatives such as the Spitsbergen Ambition. Organizations operating at level four are the frontrunners on the subject of purpose.

Purpose maturity model in banking

More than a show

Almost all banks are involved with some sort of social enterprise, NGO, or charity. Many of them have set up foundations with programs dedicated to improving the environment, investing in social entrepreneurs or the stimulation of initiatives that deliver positive change in other ways.

In short, banks increasingly understand that success is not all about money. It’s about defining (and taking action on) a purpose.

With so many positive initiatives on the map, we wonder again: Where is the dissonance in what banks actually do versus how they are seen by the public?

Here’s the thing: to truly “live” purpose, cultural change is needed to the extent where purpose driven behaviour is stimulated. To achieve this change, top-down messaging is no longer viable. Today’s generation wants to act — let’s invite them to drive the change, and become part of a proud and trusted industry again through their actions.

Banks — and those who work within the banking system — must make consistent, genuine efforts to better the world. Those efforts, however, must be publicly visible. Although the cultivation of positive image is never the goal of successful purpose efforts, it is the result of collaborative action between employees, customers, and (potentially) additional stakeholders.

Transforming purpose into action

So it’s all about transforming your purpose into action. But how do you do this? Based upon our research and experience, we’ve set out a seven-step approach.

  1. Decide upon your purpose and pick themes close to your core.
  2. Create a brand-aligned platform where all purpose projects come together, where all real stories can be found, and where real-time impact is visualised.
  3. Map and visualise all existing inspiring initiatives and great projects from the recent past.
  4. Empower frontrunners to take the lead in starting new, relevant initiatives.
  5. Provide calls-to-action to all your employees, encouraging them to participate in these initiatives.
  6. Activate employees and partner organisations to further boost engagement and impact
  7. Engage other stakeholders such as customers, supply chain partners, and communities to truly bring your purpose into action.

GoodUp has proven to master the strict quality criteria in the financial industry and expects to soon launch various purpose engagement programs in the industry. We know that banks are doing their part — and that you want to do more. We facilitate this seven-step approach to acting upon your purpose. Curious as to how? We’re here to multiply your already-big positive impact. Give us a call to find out more!