zeb.transformation study 2022

Willingness to change and team orientation lead to success
Profitable banks and insurers rely on a success-oriented corporate culture

For many years, the financial services industry in general has neglected to recognize a connection between corporate culture and corporate success. Strong results were attributed to a powerful, hierarchically structured organization. Soft skills such as team orientation, on the other hand, were deemed negligible and at best the result of the respective managers’ leadership style. The success of new players in the financial sector, however, has fundamentally changed this perception.
As zeb’s current transformation study reveals, almost all profitable banks and insurers now have a culture of success that differs significantly from the corporate cultures of lower-yield companies in this segment. Although sustainable cultural work always requires a comparably high level of effort, it pays off: in the form of more efficient employees, higher customer satisfaction, and increased profitability of the company’s own organization.
Study author Christian von Schirach, Senior Manager at zeb, elaborates: “We compared successful banks and insurers with less successful ones and found marked differences. Our study proves that corporate culture is a decisive lever for the economic success of one’s own organization, so long as it is properly understood and strategically developed.”

Major cultural differences
According to the study authors, the most important prerequisite for a success-oriented corporate culture is a dedicated team orientation. More profitable companies in the banking and insurance sector, for example, have a 71% higher team orientation than less successful ones. The willingness to provoke change is equally crucial: 60% of successful companies are more willing to embrace change than less successful ones. In terms of openness and trust, successful companies outperform less successful ones by 46%, and by 43% in terms of transparency with regard to information and decisions.
Dr. Christina Block, Senior Manager at zeb, states: “While less successful companies in the banking and insurance sector neglect to focus on their corporate culture, successful companies work on it consistently. We were able to determine: if there is no operationalized HR strategy, success is usually just a calculated fluke.”

Stringent HR strategy as the key to success
Against this background, the study shows that a well-defined HR strategy can have a major leverage effect. Institutions with a substantiated HR strategy achieve 74% higher performance in transformation management and 60% better performance in skills management. Tackling HR processes without a dedicated HR strategy at grassroots level, however, more often leads to low-impact changes with no real economic benefit.
The study authors also noted that 60% of successful companies continuously work on individual and practice-oriented leadership skills. The organization of management training thus moves closer to the business units and focuses on entire teams rather than individual players.
70% of successful companies also place teams at the center of their key HR instruments, for example by working with team targets and short target cycles. These ensure that the targets can be achieved more easily, reviewed repeatedly, and then adjusted where necessary.
Fabian Möller, Senior Consultant at zeb, concludes: “Targets must be motivating and measurable in concrete terms. This allows managers and employees to work more effectively on achieving targets and to reach them with smaller steps. This benefits the teams and serves as an important contribution to the success of the entire company.”

The 2022 zeb.transformation study
For the current study, zeb surveyed more than 1,000 companies in the financial industry in Germany, Austria and Switzerland during fall and winter of 2021. 150 companies participated by completing a comprehensive questionnaire containing around 30 criteria on a scale from 0 (very weak criterion) to 100 (very strong criterion). Further details on the study are available here.

As a leading strategy and management consultancy, zeb has been offering transformation expertise along the entire value chain in the financial services sector in Europe since 1992. In Germany, we have offices in Frankfurt, Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Münster (HQ). Our international offices are located in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Kiev, London, Luxembourg, Milan, Moscow, Oslo, Stockholm, Vienna, Warsaw and Zurich. Our clients include European large-cap and private banks, regional banks, insurers as well as all kinds of financial intermediaries. Several times already, our company has been classed and acknowledged as “best consultancy” for the financial sector in industry rankings.