20 February 2011

European Banks: What Do They Say about Themselves?

Especially during the financial crisis many were critical if not angry to the banks. This has brought the importance of banks sending a positive message to society into spotlight. So, what are they saying about themselves?

I analysed some seventeen largest or otherwise interesting European banks (Danske, Dexia, BNP Paribas, Société Générale, Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, AIB, UniCredit, ING, Nordea, Swedbank, RBS, Barklays, HSBC, UBS, Credit Suisse, DnB NOR) to find it out. More precisely, I looked into such sections like “About us”, “Strategy”, “Vision and mission”, “Core values”, “Brand”, “Code of Conduct” etc. on their websites. In the second part of the article is the detailed information about each and every bank covered: what they say with their own words and what did I read out from it.

I expected that every bank says at least three things:
1. Why it exists (from social point of view)?
2. Where it is going?
3. What are its basic values or guiding principles?
Although classical questions of corporate philosophy, not everyone seems to  have answered them (e.g. Dexia, AIB, DnB NOR). The others have approached the topic rather in a traditional way by clearly defining mission/purpose, vision and values (notably Nordic banks Nordea, Swedbank, Danske). Some prefer to say more rather than less (e.g. Deutsche Bank), while  the others are as laconic as possible (e.g. Danske).

Some banks have slogans or brand promises (whatever it is for a given bank) which are meant to make their brands memorable:
* The bank for a changing world (BNP Paribas)
* We stand by you (Société Générale)
* Passion to perform (Deutsche Bank)
* Achieving more together (Commerzbank)
* Making it possible (the mission of Nordea that sounds similar to the above slogans or brand promises)

To summarise the messages of different banks:
* Many include geographical ambitions into their messages. E.g. Commerzbank and DnB NOR position themselves as local banks, Nordea and UniCredit as European banks, and HSBC, Barklays, UBS and Credit Suisse as global players.
* Several banks aim to be the first or among the firsts in somewhere or in something. For example, Danske says that it wants to be the best local financial partner; ING’s mission is to set the standard in helping customers manage their financial future; Barklays aims to become one of a handful of universal banks leading the global financial services industry; UBS basically wants to be a top tier bank for top tier clients.
* Some focus to customers and local community (e.g. RBS, Swedbank, DnB NOR), while the others include also shareholders and employees into their communication (e.g. UniCredit, Nordea, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank). Dexia's only aim seems to be to increase the company’s value.
* There are those who stress innovation and changes (e.g. BNP Paribas, Barklays, Credit Suisse), and those who put emphasis to the traditional way of banking (Swedbank, AIB).
* Part of the banks stress partnership (e.g. Danske, Société Générale, Commerzbank, RBS), while the others see themselves rather as “givers” and “enablers” (e.g. Deutsche Bank, UniCredit, Nordea, Swedbank).

In terms of values and guiding principles, there is a wide variety of good expressions reflecting the different focuses of different banks: accessibility, ambition, caring, clear, client focus, commitment, compliance, confidence, connected, cooperation, creativity, dependable, expertise, fairness, freedom to act, innovation, integrity, open, partnership, passion, performance, reciprocity, respect, (socially and environmentally) responsible, responsiveness, simple, sustainability, teamwork, transparency, trust, truth, value creation. Why not to take them at face value and expect just that?

In my mind the most challenging values to follow include: sustainability (because financial system is not sustainable by design), simple (because financial world is not simple in itself), fairness (because financial sector has been on stronger position by design).

Now the promised more detailed information about each of the covered banks (and sorry if I have missed or misinterpreted something – correct and up-to-date information can be found from the linked banks’ websites):

Vision: One platform – exceptional brands
Mission: The best local financial partner
Core values:
            * Integrity – in business affairs and as a part of society.
            * Expertise – through high standards of quality and professionalism.
            * Value creation – for shareholders, customers and employees.
            * Commitment – to customers’ financial affairs.
            * Accessibility – electronic and physical.

What I read out: We are the best local financial partner.

Aim: The Group aims at fully extracting the potential from its historical franchises in Belgium and Luxemburg while developing its Turkish operations.

What I read out: We want to increase company’s value.

Slogan: The bank for a changing world
Core values:
* Responsiveness – Speed in the assessment of new situations and developments, and in identifying opportunities and risks. Efficiency in decision making and in action.
* Creativity – Encouraging initiatives and new ideas. Recognising contributions.
* Commitment – Commitment to the service of clients and collective accomplishment. Exemplary behaviour.
* Ambition – Aspiration for challenge and leadership. Desire to obtain team success in a competition where the referee is the client.
Quality: Continuous improvement of customer satisfaction

What I read out:  We change as the world changes.

Brand promise: We stand by you

What I read out: We stand by you.

Mission: We compete to be the leading global provider of financial solutions, creating lasting value for our clients, our shareholders, our people and the communities in which we operate
Brand: Passion to Perform
Personality: We are passionate, precise, confident, agile-minded
* Performance – We are committed to a result-oriented culture.
* Trust – We behave reliably, fairly and honestly.
* Teamwork – We benefit from the diversity of our business and our people by working together to achieve success.
* Innovation – We are constantly challenging conventional wisdom and developing new solutions to meet customer requirements.
* Client Focus – We place customers at the centre of our activities and they drive all that we do.
Promise: Excellence. Relevant client solutions. Responsibility.

What I read out: We are passionate to perform.

Aim: To be the "house bank" for private and corporate customers in Germany synonymous with long-term partnerships and outstanding service
Brand promise: Achieving more together
* Partnership – We take care of you as customers. We want our business relationship to be based on an equal footing and find the solution that is best for you.  
* Performance – We lead you on the path to success with strength and experience.
Values: service, respect and partnership, market orientation, team spirit and integrity

What I read out: Together we achieve more (if you are a German customer).

Aim: To restore the credibility of the organisation and ensure its viability within a 1,000 day period that started in December 2009 and runs to August 2012.
Approach: Back to basics

What I read out: We got it wrong.

Mission/Direction: We UniCredit people are committed to generating value for our customers. As a leading European bank, we are dedicated to the development of the communities in which we live, and to being a great place to work. We aim for excellence and we consistently strive to be easy to deal with. These commitments will allow us to create sustainable value for our shareholders.
* Fairness
* Transparency
* Respect
* Freedom to act
* Trust
* Reciprocity
Our set of values is based on integrity as condition of sustainability...
...to transform profit into value...
...for all our stakeholders (customers, employees, shareholders and markets, local communities)

What I read out: We create value to all our stakeholders.

Mission: To set the standard in helping our customers manage their financial future.
Objectives: ING aims to deliver financial products and services in the way that our customers want them delivered: with exemplary service and maximum convenience at competitive prices.
Brand: Making finance easier
Business principles:
    * We act with integrity
    * We are open and clear
    * We respect each other
    * We are socially and environmentally responsible

What I read out: We are the best in helping you to manage your financial future.

Mission: Making it possible
Vision: To be a Great European bank, acknowledged for its people, creating superior value for customers and shareholders.
            * Great customer experiences
            * It's all about people
            * One Nordea team
Foundation: Profit orientation and prudent cost, risk and capital management

What I read out: We will be a Great European Bank.

Vision: We enable people, businesses and society to grow. Swedbank – beyond financial growth.
Purpose: We promote a sound and sustainable financial situation for the many households and enterprises.
            * Simple – We make banking easier. We make the complex simple. We bring clarity to complexity.
            * Open – We are open up to new ideas and people. We are honest & straightforward.
            * Caring – We are service-minded, warm and helpful. We strive to build strong, lasting relationships.

What I read out: We are more than just a bank.

About us: We regard every day as a new chance to earn your trust. It demands hard work, integrity and transparency, but that's what we do.
Aim: To make RBS one of the world’s most admired, valuable and stable universal banks.
Customer approach:
            * Building long-lasting relationships
            * Earning your trust
            * Delivering on our promises
            * Moving forward together

What I read out: We are to serve the customers.

Who is HSBC? The world's local bank. Strong, steadfast, sustainable.
            * Open to different ideas and cultures
            * Connected with our customers, community and each other
            * Dependable and doing the right thing
Business principles:
            * Outstanding customer services
* Effective and efficient operations
* Strong capital and liquidity
* Prudent lending policy
* Strict expense discipline

What I read out: We have strong presence everywhere.

Purpose: “Banks have an obligation to extend credit to households and businesses, enabling them to create growth and jobs - it is their prime social purpose.”
Aim/Ambition: to become one of a handful of universal banks leading the global financial services industry, helping customers and clients throughout the world achieve their goals.
Guiding principles:
    * Winning together – achieving collective and individual success
    * Best people – developing talented colleagues to reach their full potential, to ensure Barclays retains a leading position in the global financial services industry
    * Customer and client focus – understanding customers and serving them brilliantly
    * Pioneering – driving new ideas, adding diverse skills and improving operational excellence
    * Trusted – acting with the highest integrity to retain the trust of customers, external stakeholders and colleagues.

What I read out: We want to be one of the leaders in global financial services industry.

Focus: Wealthy investors, institutional and corporate clients, and our domestic Swiss business.
Aim: To be a top tier bank in every growth region.
Strategic guiding principles:
            * Reputation – Put the clients at the center of everything we do. Treat reputation and people as our most valuable assets. Ensure discipline and implement best-in-class governance processes.
            * Integration – Take a holistic portfolio view in decision-making. Deliver the best of all of UBS to our clients. Enhance structures & processes for further cost and capital efficiency.
            * Execution – Ensure consistent high-quality delivery externally & internally. Build a strong performance-oriented culture. Retain, develop and hire the best talent at all levels.
Code of Conduct:
            * Truth – We behave with respect and integrity. We are accurate, realistic and accountable.We always act fairly and abide by the law.
            * Clarity – We make it easy to do business with UBS. We are concise, precise and to the point.We are reliable and consistent.
            * Performance – We will always give our best. We will perform to the highest professional standards. We will lead the market through superior service and execution.

What I read out: We want to be a top tier bank for top tier clients.

Vision: Our vision is to become the world’s most admired bank, renowned for our expertise in private banking, investment banking and asset management, and most valued for our advice, innovation and execution.
Mission: Our mission is to set new standards in partnering with our clients and providing them with integrated financial solutions. As a global bank serving clients in every region of the world, cultural diversity is essential to our success. We strive to create an open, respectful workplace that encourages people to work together and with our clients to deliver superior products, services and results and support the success and prosperity of all our stakeholders.
Brand: The Credit Suisse brand is an expression of our client focused business approach and our aim to become the world’s most admired bank.
Code of Conduct: Integrity, Responsibility, Respect, Compliance, Confidence, Risk Culture, Service and Excellence, Sustainability, Cooperation, Commitment

What I read out: We are the standard setter in private banking, investment banking and asset management.

About us: DnB NOR wishes to promote sustainable development through responsible business operations which emphasise environmental, ethical and social considerations
Personal: As your local bank, we are where you are, offering attractive products at competitive prices with swift and excellent service.
Corporate: Widely represented worldwide and with the experience, expertise and capacity to accompany Norwegian companies as they grow within and beyond Norway’s borders.

What I read out: We are a responsible (Norwegian) local bank with worldwide experience, expertise and capacity.

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