• The BSB Survey scores of UK banks and building societies, taken as a group, showed little change in 2019. This followed a similar tendency in 2018, meaning that – over the four years in which the Survey has been run to date – the overall picture is one of improving scores in 2017 followed by a sideways trend.
  • Given the efforts that many firms have been taking to understand and manage their organisational cultures, this lack of change may come as a surprise and disappointment. Two considerations should be kept in mind when interpreting this overall finding.
  • First, without the steps that firms have been taking, these aggregate scores may have been lower. In a context of ongoing internal and external change, firms in aggregate may have been running hard to stand still (and as this data set relates only to banking, it cannot offer a counterfactual from other sectors). Actions taken by firms may take time to show results; culture change rarely happens quickly or in a straight line. Or, of course, none of this may be the case. Understanding the data is not to excuse it; it is, however, central to being able to take effective action.
  • Second, the stability of scores across all firms collectively, hides considerable movement and differences between and within firms. Even when we divide firms simply into two groups – large, complex (i.e. systemically important) firms and smaller, less complex firms – differences emerge. Taken together, the scores of large complex firms trended sideways in 2018 and 2019, holding onto earlier improvements. The aggregate scores of smaller firms, in contrast, have tended to decline over the past few years, albeit on many questions from a higher starting point than that of larger firms. This has been particularly evident on some questions relating to responsiveness and reliability. At the level of individual firms and business areas within firms, variation and change is even more evident.
  • Over the period since 2016, the greatest improvements in scores across all firms in aggregate have been on questions relating to responding to staff feedback and to perceptions of senior leaders. Women tend to answer the Survey questions more positively than do men. The main exception to this in 2019 (as in previous years) came on the question about whether people turned a blind eye to inappropriate behaviour.
  • We asked respondents for the first time in 2019 about their ethnicity. For several questions – and controlling for other characteristics such as gender, business area etc – the responses of people who identified as ‘White-British’ were more positive than those of other respondents, and in particular on questions relating to ethical behaviour in the firm.
  • A quarter of employees said that working at their firm had a negative impact on their health and wellbeing. This proportion has shown little change over the past four years. 37% of employees said that they routinely slept for 6 hours or fewer each night, and 29% that they felt fatigued or very tired at work every or almost every day. Given the importance of sufficient sleep not only for physical and mental health, but also for the ability to exercise professional and ethical judgement, this may be something that the industry wishes to explore further.


  • 70% of respondents believed in 2019 that senior leaders meant what they said and 66% that leaders took responsibility, especially if things went wrong. Both proportions have increased by eight percentage points since 2016; this is the biggest change in responses to any of the 36 Survey questions over the four-year period, though with most of the gains coming in the first year.

Shared purpose

  • 85% of employees said that their organisation’s purpose and values were meaningful to them. This proportion was comparable with 2018, and a 4 percentage point increase from the first year of the Survey in 2016. 66% said that there was no conflict between their organisation’s stated values and how business was done; a similar proportion as in 2018, but a 3 percentage point decrease from 2016.

Speaking up

  • 30% of employees said that people got defensive when their views were challenged by colleagues and 28% that they would be worried about negative consequences if they raised concerns at work. While the first of these has improved since 2016 (when it stood at 34%), the latter has shown little change. 78% of employees would feel comfortable challenging a decision made by their manager; a 4 percentage point increase since 2016.


  • 42% of employees said that they often felt under excessive pressure to perform at work, while 25% said that working at their organisation was having a negative impact on their health and wellbeing, a proportion little changed from 2016.
  • In 2019 we collected data on sleep and fatigue for the first time. 37% of employees said that they sleep for six hours or fewer each night and 29% said that felt fatigued or very tired at work every or day or almost every day.


  • 90% of employees said that their colleagues acted in an honest and ethical way. 13%, however, said that they had seen instances of unethical behaviour being rewarded and 14% felt it was difficult to make career progression without flexing their ethical standards. This picture has been consistent since 2016.


  • 79% of employees agreed that their organisation encouraged innovation in the best interests of customers – a 4 percentage point increase since 2016. A consistent 55%, however, felt that internal process and practices were a barrier to continuous improvement. 75% felt that their organisation responded effectively to customer feedback, and 63% to staff feedback. Both proportions were unchanged on the year but have improved since 2016.


  • 19% of employees said that they see people in their organisation turn a blind eye to inappropriate behaviour. Though women answered slightly more positively than men, on average, across most questions, they were more likely to say they saw people turn a blind eye to inappropriate behaviour (21%, compared to 15% of men).