Employees’ views on working in Private Bank

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Employees' views on working in Private Bank

Vast majority of respondents from the Private Bank take a big pride in working there. However, they often emphasise the 'special status' of the bank itself and its clients. They derive a lot of satisfaction from working for a bank with great tradition and very well recognized and respected name and interacting with famous and/or posh clients.

This can be seen in remarks like:

'Having worked here 20 years its part of the name of Private Bank, the tradition of Private Bank, the fact that I feel proud to be associated working with Private Bank. I don't think I would ever think about leaving Private Bank for any reason like better money or anything like that. After having something like Private Bank on your CV it is a stepping stone into any bank, and private bank. I have been into banks of competitors City Bank, Morgan Stanley you name it and I would have thought and hoped I would have no problem going into another bank but it wouldn't interest me.' (David, Assistant to private banker, front office)

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Thus, causality issue must be taken into account. Employees may be committed to the bank not solely due to certain HR practices in place but also this special status. Furthermore, employees report good relationship between managers and workers and high levels of trust in place. Employees trust managers to look after their best interest and feel that managers trust them to perform their job well and do not supervise them closely.

The 'Unlocking Excellence' programme and related to it schemes is very popular among back office employees who support it and participate in it voluntarily. These employees believe that it fosters open and direct communication amongst employees and managers and gives them an influence over their work. However, some of them get frustrated when their idea is not implemented due to too high financial resources needed or when the implementation process proves lengthy. Interestingly, some employees actually think that there is too much involvement in place in the bank: '...You think what is going on, I spend more time in meetings than I am actually at my desk. Some people can only make decisions by having everyone around a table, they haven't got the leadership skills to make decisions themselves, they have to have a big meeting and sound it off first. It works sometimes but not for every thing. That is maybe what I am trying to get at, you can sometimes have too muchinvolvement from the staff. There has to be some leadership shown and decisions made about getting everyone involved from the cleaner up to the chairman.' (Gavin, assistant to private banker, front office)

Similar views are expressed by some private bankers who as sellers are given targets to achieve and see this kind of schemes as taking them away from their primary goal of generating revenue for the bank, thus do not participate in them that often. Employees feel motivated to help each other and stress the importance of working as a team. They are measured on behavioural competencies such as cooperating with people on their team and other teams. They see teamwork as enhancing their experience of work however, some private bankers report moderate levels of stress resulting from competition between teams (which team is going to make the most of money) and achieving targets as a team member: 'Occasionally there is almost a league table put up once a month just showing where and how everyone is doing in terms of overall income against target. I suppose that suitably creates a bit of peer pressure because clearly for those who feel that they are performing less well than the rest of the team there is going to be a feeling that, right I need to get out and do more to get further up that league table so to speak. I am not sure that everyone necessarily feels that way but I suppose it does create a feeling of competition if you like.' (Private Banker, Entrepreneurs client group)

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Respondents presented different views when asked if they benefit too when their company does well. All mentioned profit sharing but some have very good opinion of it while others find it minimal considering the profit the bank makes (profit sharing is capped at 10% of salary). Few participate in 'save as you earn' scheme (share ownership). Back office employees bring an issue of pay rises being less than inflation level.

Regarding above two issues (stress and pay levels) HR Business Partner's views are as follows:

'Stress, we haven't got an issue with stress. We're quite a small company, individuals are well paid, stress doesn't feature really.'

Conclusions

The paper reports preliminary results of my study and these must be treated with caution because of the limited level of analysis conducted so far. It has been common in the literature on HPWSs to assume that performance gains from HPWSs are mediated by employees but without offering an explanation how it happens. Do HPWSs, as suggested by proponents operate voluntarily through enhanced employee autonomy and commitment or are HPWSs better understood as a managerial attempt to secure worker consent and they operate coercively through increased work - load and stress?

The dilemma of delivering high - quality service and achieving efficiency by cutting costs at the same time is evident in Private Bank. It's difficult for the bank to resist the pressure to adapt to The Group's systems of work what led to giving up on a sophisticated system that allowed to multi - skill all the staff. The adopted one fits with one task only solution for back office employees as a way to drive out efficiencies. However, this was applied to back office only and some measures were undertaken to overcome the drawbacks and negative results for employees. To achieve high service quality front office employees are subject to higher degree of High Performance Work Practices and enjoy higher level of autonomy but there is no evidence of employees influence over strategic or policy decisions. The two groups of employees report slightly different perceptions of working within HPWSs but for both a positive association with satisfaction, orientation towards management and commitment can be made. Providing high quality service to customers combined with the fact that supervisors cannot directly monitor interaction with clients and output measurement is difficult means that management seeks to elicit commitment to customer-oriented values of the firm. Final version of this study will hopefully answer in more detail how it is achieved and will present more sophisticated account of how employees respond to these attempts.