Shock, horror! Soon Barclays will soon have one of its most senior bankers devoting—wait for it—half his time to managing talent.
The chairman of the bank’s global finance and risk solutions will be acquiring this new role in March. 
You might understandably be surprised or perhaps cynical at this major bank taking so long to realise managing talent is indeed a truly demanding task. Sufficiently challenging in fact, to finally assign a corporate heavy weight to it.
Managing talent has countless implications for the likes of Barclays. Not least for making sure it runs an ethical organisation. That is, one in which people feel committed to helping it behave as a responsible member of society.
“The public standing of bankers is now at one of its lowest levels for decades. The sins of arrogance, greed, untrustworthiness and callousness are hard to forgive.”
Stephen Green of HSBC, in Good Value
The record in recent years shows only too clearly the price paid for ignoring the link between behaving ethically and the full use of talent, and for treating people as mini-machines geared solely for profits.
Part of this notable change is driven not by a sudden rush to the head of ethical concerns though. It stems from the ever-tightening regulatory and society constraints on that old reliable reward system of lip-smacking bonuses.
When you can’t simply dump a shed load of loot on someone desk to keep them pointing in the right direction, other factors must be considered.
One such factor to take into account is your newer recruits come from a generation that, while ambitious, still wants to know they’re working for an organisation with integrity, one with ethical values to which they can readily subscribe.
Multiple research studies and surveys of staff retention, all confirm newer recruits will
vote with their feet, unless they regard an organisation’s values as compatible with their own and they witness senior leaders practising what they preach.
That certainly presents HSBC with what is surely a growing problem, as one ethical disaster or another keeps surfacing. Or to put it more emotively:
It’s pretty much a complete death of ethics at HSBC.”
William Black, professor of economics and law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City
In 2012 the bank revealed it was under investigation by at least six jurisdictions for potential manipulation of interbank lending.
The bank’s then CEO Stuart Gulliver admitted Europe’s biggest bank had “lost its way” and warned of legal penalties significantly higher than the $700m it had already earmarked to settle the rate-rigging. 
Then came the HSBC money laundering scandal in Mexico. This smacked of a lack of senior management oversight and the chief compliance office publicly fell on his sword. 
Now the bank’s Geneva subsidiary is in local regulators’ sights after details about how its Swiss private bank allegedly helped wealthy clients evade taxes were leaked to the media and published. The office there reportedly colluded with some to conceal undeclared “black” accounts.
Finally, Geneva’s public prosecutor searched HSBC’s lakeside Swiss office after opening a criminal inquiry into allegations of aggravated money laundering, the second probe to hit the bank in a week. 
…. re-establishing confidence in and respect for the banks will be a journey up a steep mountain.”
says Stephen Green the executive who oversaw HSBC bank during both its most recent disasters and who argued in his recent well received book Good Value that businesses should
“…look beyond immediate shareholder return and that the rich heed ‘the still, small voice of conscience’ and give something back”. 
Now imagine you work for HSBC with this catalogue of ethical disasters. Is this really a place worthy of your talents? Should you continue devoting your energies to an outfit that seems to take ethics with a pinch of salt—good at PR and making the right noises about responsible behaviour—yet in fact doing bad things that make you ashamed of being an employee there?
Put this slightly differently. If you work for HSBC and saw something amiss in the way of ethical behaviour would you be sensible to draw the attention of your manager to this situation? Or would you call the ethics hot line—assuming HSBC has one? Probably not.
Managing talent–that is the best and the brightest–is therefore as much an ethical issue as the rights or wrongs of shelling out excessive bonuses. People–especially the talented, alert ones–want to feel they work for an organisation they can be proud of, or at least not be ashamed of. For example, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development a significant number of workers are embarrassed to admit they work in financial services. 
Lloyds Banking Group boss António Horta-Osório has admitted the “best and the brightest” students are being put off a career in banking because of the stigma attached to the industry. Only one in three is proud to work in the sector. 
[symple_toggle title=”Sources” state=”closed”]
1 L.Noonan, Banks battle to retain staff as bonuses shrink, FT 18th Feb 2015
- L. Brinded, Libor Fixing Scandal: HSBC Faces Six Rate Probes as CEO Admits Bank’s Failures, International Business Times, July 30, 2012