Does creating snappy job titles lead to a better performing or more “in touch” bank? Possibly. But we are skeptical and at this point, it is too early to ascribe empirical evidence to say “yes’ or “no.”
The proliferation of titles such as “Head of Digital Banking,” “Head of Consumer Insights and Innovation,” “Cannabis Risk Officer” and so on have signaled priorities, but have they accomplished anything? In practice, it seems some new titles are not well aligned with the new skills needed to drive strategy or promote innovation. In some — or many — instances, it might be counterproductive if a bank is parsing responsibilities even further, muddying the waters on who is responsible for executing what.
We often see this in employee development. Many first-line supervisors, and even executive management, are under the false belief that the Chief People Officer, another name for the head of human resources, is primarily responsible for employee development. As a result, we see little execution that results in well-developed employees who can move the bank forward.
A common weakness uncovered in the bank strategy sessions or process improvement engagements that our firm undertakes is bank silos. Do titles lead to more silos or to more collaboration? Your chief innovation officer is not responsible for creating an end-to-end paperless mortgage experience that can go from application to close in less than three weeks. Your head of mortgage lending is — and that is based on knowing what customers demand.
Prior to advances in technology, the industry was awash in data. With these advances, there is even more of it. This is what drives banks to enlist data scientists, a functional position we highly support — although it is perhaps an exaggerated title. In a recent banking podcast, Kim Snyder, CEO and founder of data visualization firm KlariVis, spoke eloquently about data governance and integrity. How do we pull meaningful data out of our systems if we lack discipline in what we put in them?
How to use the data, how to make sure the data is well aligned across the organization and determining who is responsible is the conundrum all banks face. Commercial lenders might belly ache about being held accountable for a client’s total relationship, which may affect compensation or how employees or how a bank markets their services. But this makes the lender keenly interested in viewing the total relationship across loans and deposits, wealth and other third-party systems that impacts many organizational silos.
Why would banks want to create even more silos with these newfangled chiefs? Convincing executive management teams that they are responsible for the entire bank, not solely their functional positions, has been a struggle. Would we exacerbate that struggle by creating positions that tell the head of commercial lending they are no longer responsible for their employees’ development or the department’s diversity since the bank now has a chief diversity officer? When many are responsible, nobody is accountable.
When executing a mission in the military, the senior officer of the operation issues something called a “Commander’s Intent.” This communicates to each unit what the commander deems success, such as “It is the Commander’s Intent that this mission degrades the enemy’s surface to air missile capability by 75%.” Each unit commander plays a role in executing the Commander’s Intent, with appropriate coordination. Could banking use such cultural discipline to achieve executives or the boards’ intent, without developing creative job titles or dispersing responsibilities to chief this or chief that?
We at The Kafafian Group think so. Keep your organization simple. Define roles and accountabilities. Issue your Commander’s Intent for missions that you currently use chiefs to define. Coordinate accountabilities and focus on execution and organizational learning. Success will be evident; one day, your bank will be called a “Top Performer” or an “Innovator” — a title that any executive management team can get behind.