If these characteristics appear obvious and fundamental, that is precisely as it should be. They are characteristics that customers, members or clients should be able to take for granted as being not only present, but present to a very high degree in any bank or building society that they entrust their money to or deal with, irrespective of the firm’s size, business model, market segment, age, ownership structure or location. Furthermore, given the importance of the banking sector to the economy and the systemic nature of the sector, the public as a whole also has the right to expect the same of every bank or building society operating in the UK, whether or not they engage with it personally and directly.
Assessing firms against our nine characteristics and exploring areas of both strength and weakness, reveals issues relevant to both individual firms and to firms collectively. At the individual firm level, the results of the Assessment are given to each board and discussed with the firm. The BSB does not publish firms’ Assessment reports. It is the responsibility of each board and executive team to decide how to act on and share (e.g. with employees and regulators) the contents of their report.
Members firms join the BSB and engage in the Assessment in order to learn and continuously improve. Participation in the Assessment, with its cross-firm benchmarking and detailed reporting, demands a readiness on the part of board members and the executives to be self-critical and to ask questions of themselves and their employees that may elicit unexpected and unwelcome answers. A far more comfortable option would be to avoid asking such questions in the first place. BSB membership is voluntary; it is also challenging.
While individual firm reports are owned by the firms concerned, the BSB is committed to publishing evidence of what it finds at the cross-firm level, and identifying the issues and themes that in turn inform its policy work.
Repeated annually, the Assessment provides boards with an impartial, evidence-based picture of the culture of their firm; not only over time and across different business areas, but also relative to other firms. These multiple perspectives, combined with other internal and external data used by firms, equip boards and executive teams better to gauge progress, set priorities and learn from good practice both within the firm and (including through our policy and insights work) across firms.
The Assessment approach was developed by the BSB, working with leading academics in the fields of organisational psychology and ethnography from the London Business School and the London School of Economics, and with strategy consultants. It comprises a quantitative element (generated from an employee Survey) and can include a further qualitative dimension (including, for example, focus groups, interviews and board questions) that allows the Survey results and any broader themes to be explored in more detail. All participating firms engage in the Survey, the data from which provides benchmarked results by firm and business area.
Each firm receives its own Survey results, including (assuming that response rates were high enough to be statistically representative of the relevant populations, and, where at least seven firms could be compared) a comparison of its scores on each characteristic and question, with the range of scores of all participating firms. These comparisons are provided not only at firm level, but also, where relevant to the firm, for retail banking, commercial banking, investment banking and functions, and at the next level down (e.g. within retail banking, benchmarks are provided for retail branch, retail other, private banking and business banking). Comparisons in each case include a range and quartile against the equivalent category across all relevant firms, though without revealing the identify of any individual firm. With their results displayed in this way, boards and executive teams can see specifically where they are performing well against their peers, and where there is room for progress. Repeating this annually, using the same methodology, allows them to also gauge progress over time.
In addition to the Survey, some firms opt to take part in qualitative elements allowing us to explore themes of particular interest in greater depth. In addition to their Survey report, these firms receive a thematic report containing an in-depth analysis of the findings from this work. We continue to explore new measurement techniques to ensure that the exercise remains valuable for firms and for their customers, members, clients and employees.