September has now come and gone and if you are working in one of Australia’s retail banks and are not one of the chosen few, or are not very confident of your performance numbers, then its probably time to be polishing up your resume.

Here’s why – on Friday September 30, all of the banks will have drawn to a close to their financial year, counting their wins and their losses and calling their teams to account.

For those teams that have done well, they get to divide the spoils of their achievement, plan a holiday or have a crack at the mortgage depending on their stage of life. And frankly, just from me: Well done. It’s been a tough year. If you outperformed you deserve anything you get.

But those teams will be few this year. Banking and financial planning profits have been hard to come by – because the stock market has been flat, financial planning has been expensive to run, consumers have been reluctant to invest and spend and borrowing, the great engines of growth in the banks have been, well, less active than usual, despite what the people who sell property would have you believe.**

There are three big reasons for teams missing their target; one is the fact that the investment landscape is pockmarked by risk and no one feels the need to rush in and two the regulators are very active – suppressing the banks ability to lend (APRA) and increasingly shining the spotlight on wealth management and insurance sales behaviors (ASIC).**

Reasons one and two are external forces – things the banks can respond to, but not control, reason three is pretty shitty: The reason that a number of teams have underperformed their targets this year is that the targets they were set were unachievable.

Because of the misses here’s what’s going to happen this week, or to be perfectly correct – here’s what there will be MORE OF this week, because it is already happening.

1.   The Polite Dismissal.

People who have been working in a job for a long time and are perfectly competent, but not great, or have misread the politics, will be made redundant. Not because their job is going, but because they are really very expensive for what they do. 10 years of salary increases means that they can be replaced by someone younger cheaper and hungrier who will do the same job for less money. This is generally done incredibly politely – via attractive redundancy packages and frankly if you are confident in getting another role – take the money.

2.   The Leap Frog Promotion.

This is where a team or two teams are collapsed into a single new team, no one gets a bonus and someone else – full of promise and vigor is brought in to run the new entity. The leapfrog leader is generally someone that is on the management fast track and has been anointed to save the day and make great change.

This sounds great for the new leader. But it isn’t.  Trust me. Usually they have literally been parachuted into a pit full of Vipers. If you’ve just received a Leap Frog Leader – it means someone somewhere wants real change in your department – if you have just become one. Buckle up; it’s going to be bumpy.

3.   The Spill and Fill (Or The Re-Organization Take Your Choice)

This is where a relatively new leader misses their target. They sell it up the line that “its not me – it’s the team.”  You can almost hear them in the review meeting. “I’ve done everything I can with this group, but I’m afraid if you want me to achieve these targets – you going to have to allow me more flexibility…. so everyone in the whole team gets sacked and invited to reapply for their job.

Or they simply reorganize the team – changing the rolls so that new ones appear – the clue in this is when they don’t change the number of people in the team – just the titles. Dangerous titles at the moment are: Strategy, Research and Implementation. Safe Titles are: Anything with the word “sales” or “compliance” in it.

4.   The Rise Of The Backstabber

This is the time when backstabbers rise to the top of any business – the moment they get to cast their vote at tribal council and throw their colleagues under a bus.

Backstabbing is an essential corporate skill in all industries and banking probably suffers from it more than most. There are a notable few who have risen to senior roles without having their Brutus moment and slipping a blade between the ribs of their rivals.

But as Brutus might say – beware the ides of September and build your tribe.***

Also to all those considering wielding the blade out there, remember what happened to history’s greatest backstabber, George of Clarence, brother to Charles leader of the house of York in the war of the Roses.

While his brother was off fighting he switched sides to get ahead and when that didn’t work, he switched back. For his pains in letting him down when he most needed it and well frankly a breath taking amount of duplicity, his brother had him drowned in a butt of Malmsey, which is a type of sweet wine, because old George didn’t mind a bit of sweet wine. So backstabbers beware, if you are going to do it, you’d better be good or an ironic death might await you.

*T.S Eliot – The Wasteland – look it up its worth it.

** Not true of all segments – HNWI lending is going MENTAL – but it’s a relatively small part of the market and not particularly juicy because HNWI tend to know what a great deal looks like.

*** Brutus didn’t say anything like this of course and has relatively little to say through the play – with a lot of the good lines going to Cassius – history treats him badly because he wielded the knife and he was especially close to Julius. The Ides of March quote comes from a random soothsayer, frankly the play was chock full of nods to Caesar that the end was coming.

About the Author

Andrew Inwood

Andrew Inwood

Andrew Inwood is the founder and principal of CoreData and has more than 30 years’ experience in the Australian financial services industry...
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