Running a business in Argentina, especially in the financial sector, is not for the faint-hearted. With recent hikes in interest rates to over 70% after a currency devaluation and the ongoing economic recession fueled by high inflation, keeping customers happy would seem a near-impossible task for almost any seasoned banking executive.
But Argentina’s largest private bank Banco Galicia is doing just that. It has managed to hold its leadership position in the face of a complicated economic scenario and increased competition from foreign banks. In fact, it is highly liquid and well-capitalized. In Q1 2019, the bank reported a 41.2% return on equity, outperforming the system average of 37%.
Galicia’s leadership team headed up by CEO Fabian Kon traces the bank’s ability to stand strong in this latest economic storm to a strategic decision made back in 2016, when it launched a campaign to transform its culture. The strategy was based on the idea that if the bank focused on its employees, it could address its customers’ needs and pain points in the most effective way possible. The platform it chose as the technological backbone for that initiative was StarMeUp OS.
Hard wire your customer experience to your employee journey
The bank’s leadership team molded its cultural transformation around the idea of empowering employees to establish an emotional connection with the bank’s customers. In fact, the link between employee motivation and customer experience was defined as a core necessity.
Three years later, the results extend beyond the bank’s market leadership measured in terms of deposits or the other economic indicators. For the last three years running, Banco Galicia was named the No.1 place to work in Argentina by the international organization Great Places to Work.
Rafael Bergés, Chief Human Resources Manager at Banco Galicia, attributes éthe 2017-2018 accolade to the symbiotic relationship between the bank’s 7,000 employees and its three million customers.
“Being the best bank in Argentina, is not just about being the best bank for our customers, it’s about being the best bank to work at,” says Bergés. “We believe that this is the best way for a service company to connect with its customers.”
Best in sequencing
A company’s DNA—that thread woven throughout every action and decision in an organization—is an important constant for companies worldwide in today’s ever changing business environment. But, arguably, as a bank in Argentina, where the ability to constantly adapt one’s business strategy, systems and processes is charged with an extra dose of urgency, offering employees stability and certain reassurances in the form of company DNA is even more critical.
Galicia’s leadership team would argue that its strong DNA, which is defined by three building blocks: culture, continuous dialogue, and new leadership roles, has acted as a beacon during this particularly challenging time in Argentina.
The bank’s culture is rooted in a transformation process that linked good customer experiences with employee satisfaction. Secondly, a climate of continuous dialogue, which is made possible by the StarMeUp and BetterMe platforms, is part of employees’ day-to-day activities. And, thirdly, leadership roles have been redefined to create opportunities for influencers and other champions of the company’s culture.
What separates Galicia from its competitors is not it’s customer-centric approach; it’s not even its commitment to employee satisfaction. It’s how the bank links its objectives for employees with those established for its customers, and vice versa, creating a virtuous circle.
According to Bergés: “when your employees are committed to your organization and they like what they do, their positive energy is transferred over the customer, translating into a mutually pleasant experience.”
Galicia’s commitment to creating an employee experience that fosters better customer experiences offers many lessons for leadership teams in any highly regulated and traditional industry. Like Kon and his team, most of them are facing a surmounting challenge: they need their employees to be more creative, innovative and agile but their existing structures are built around stability and predictability.
One of the first things Galicia did was to define its goal to become the best company to work as a KPI. This prompted the bank to rethink its purpose to “improve people’s day-to-day lives.” It established the values that identify the bank today: commitment, closeness, enthusiasm, and innovation.
The bank took concrete measures to show employees that they understood what was important to them. Initiatives to promote diversity in the workplace were implemented. Examples include post-maternity return policies, accommodations for breastfeeding mothers at work, work programs for people with disabilities, development of sustainable practices, annual rotation of employees to enhance training, among others.
Strengthening continuous dialogue through BetterMe + StarMeUp
Banco Galicia quickly understood that in order for its employees to feel motivated they needed tools that would make it possible to build strong personal connections among 7,000 people located at 325 branches around the country. The platforms it chose are StarMeUp and BetterMe. These digital solutions made it possible to connect people spread out across different offices and in different roles in a digital space that promotes recognition and continuous constructive feedback among peers.
With BetterMe, in particular, the bank sought to obtain real-time cross-sectional feedback from everyone in the organization, from a direct manager, or a colleague, or any other coworker in any office. “These tools are what allow us to measure culture, because they provide us with metrics that let us see how things are leveraged,” emphasizes Bergés.
Feedback and recognition feeds the constant dialogue among employees, managers and the bank’s leadership.
More than a title: leadership roles
No holistic strategy would be complete without asking what role leaders play in any organization. After all, they are expected to act as the guardians of culture promoting and protecting core values. In Banco Galicia, a leader is the one who helps make it possible for everyone to contribute their best. More than a job title, leaders are those individuals with the ability to influence and spread the best practices.
To involve employees in the bank’s culture transformation strategy, leadership understood that they needed to feel integrated in the decision-making process; they needed to feel heard. Data and insights from StarMeUp and BetterMe were leveraged to feed those efforts from communication strategies, training sessions, and recognition initiatives.
In the month of May, for example, they held an event called the All-Star Team, during which they recognized the individuals with the highest number of stars for each company value in StarMeUp. “Our All-Star Team initiative is about fostering good habits. When someone receives a lot of recognition in a particular value, it means that they are really generating a positive impact. StarMeUp makes it possible for us to that,” explains Bergés.
For Bergés and the bank’s other managers, there is no question as to what the end goal is: it’s to be the best bank in Argentina. But they are equally clear as to how they want to be recognized as the best bank in Argentina: as the best place to work.
By keeping employees motivated, engaged and satisfied, financial services companies like Galicia can empower those on the frontline to create strong emotional connections with the customers they are working with day-in and day-out.