With the news that Wells Fargo has agreed to pay the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency $1 billion for a series of unethical deeds that are also illegal, the bank’s leadership must be asking themselves, “What can we do to ensure this doesn’t happen again?”
Rewrite Every Job Description
There is a yawning gap between what most companies say they value and what they actually look for in new employees.
Suppose you want to apply to work at Wells Fargo in wealth brokerage services. According to the job description posted on the company’s website, here is verbatim what you need to have to be qualified for this position:
• Client service focus with the ability to respond to requests in a timely manner
• Strong analytical skills with high attention to detail and accuracy
• Strong organizational, multi tasking, and prioritizing skills
• Good verbal, written, and interpersonal communication skills
• Brokerage client support experience
• Ability to provide administrative support, including responding to prospect/customer inquiries and requests for information
• Ability to prioritize work, meet deadlines, achieve goals, and work under pressure in a dynamic and complex environment
• Knowledge and understanding of brokerage: systems or applications
To summarize, you must be highly knowledgeable and skilled. These are two necessary components of doing this job well. But they are not sufficient.
Suppose your wealth manager was highly advanced in every one of the above categories but was also dishonest, didn’t keep his or her promises and cared more about promoting his or her interests above yours. You would run the other way, as well you should.
Wells Fargo suggests as much in their own values statement: “We’re committed to the highest standards of integrity, transparency, and principled performance. We do the right thing, in the right way, and hold ourselves accountable.”
Why is this core value nowhere to be seen in their job description for Wealth Management Broker? Or for that matter in any of its other job descriptions at every level of the organization?
Chances are your own company also has a huge gap between what it says it values and the kinds of people it seeks to hire.
Close the gap. Rewrite every single job description so that it is crystal clear that you hire for character as well as competence.
Which takes us to the second crucial strategy that Wells Fargo and your company should adopt to avoid costly fines and achieve a higher level of financial success.
Hire For Character
You can indeed hire for character as well as competence. In fact, you must do so if you want to avoid having another story in the New York Times be about how your company was slapped with a steep fine for improper conduct.
There always have been, and there always will be pathological liars who can charm you into believing they’re people of high character. But you can still increase the likelihood of hiring honest, accountable and courageous people to work with and for you. In addition to including references to character as well as competence in your company’s job descriptions, you can ask questions that reveal the applicant’s commitment to high character, such as:
Tell me about a time when you stood up to someone in authority and you prevailed.
A story rich in detail, told with conviction, will reveal the person’s courage, one of ten crucial qualities of high-character employees. Depending upon the situation he or she describes, you may also get a sense of his or her commitment to honesty, promise-keeping and other traits associated with men and women of integrity.
My book, The Good Ones: Ten Crucial Qualities of High-Character Employees, is chock-full of questions you can ask to increase the likelihood of hiring high-character people.
Celebrate High-Character Employees
The best-kept secrets at your company are the stories of good people doing honest and brave things that directly enrich the company or enhance its reputation.
Here’s a story that wealth management advisor A. Mark Harbour told me about how he and his colleagues let a client go.
We were trying to get more emotional involvement from the client and dig a little deeper into their lives to do more comprehensive, structural work in their portfolio design. ‘Let’s look at things that are of value to you beyond the investment returns,’ we said. But the client didn’t want a holistic approach to their situation. They just wanted a money manager.
Ultimately we told them, ‘It’s not a good fit and we can’t add value to you, so we recommend that you change advisors.’ Another team at our firm took the client, so the firm did not lose the client’s assets. Our group did lose a client, but it turned out to be better both for the client and for us.”
For Mark, successful wealth management is about more than making money for a client. It’s about helping clients achieve some of the things that they value most. It’s based on a holistic approach to working with the client, which Mark believes serves the client in the best possible way. Mark is willing to give up lucrative relationships with clients who don’t view wealth management the same way he and his team do.
Mark’s professional training (CPA, CFA, and CIMA®) demonstrates that he has the knowledge and skills to be an effective wealth manager, and the fact that he is Chair of the Advocacy/Ethics Committee of the CFA Society of Los Angeles and the Ethics Editor of the magazine Investment & Wealth Monitor tells you about his interest in doing the right thing. But a story like the one above shows that he walks the talk.
Wells Fargo can make this their last billion-dollar-fine by hiring and promoting people like Mark Harbour who live their values and reflect well on the business.
Who are the people in your company who stand up for what they believe in and honor your company’s mission to do right by your clients? It’s time to find out so that they are no longer your best-kept secret.