In 2013 Finext was named 'Smartest company in the Netherlands’. What is the secret behind the success of this financial consulting company? A plea for simplicity, trust and the return to the human dimension.
‘We are convinced that simplicity really works. Simplicity speeds up, improves operations and makes organisations agile. Reducing complexity brings the financial professional back to the essence’. Since its establishment in 1999 the philosophy of Finext has been to be a ‘company of trust’. This is more than just a noble goal: it is an organisation without leaders. Personal responsibility, respect and professionalism are paramount.
‘We believe that finance is primarily about people. It is mostly about having a good conversation’. Finext specifically promotes the ‘return to the human dimension’, a remarkable point of view in a usually though financial sector. According to Finext, financial professionals are constrained by endless spreadsheets and reports. By equipping them with confidence and proper ICT-tools, they will make better use of their talents and as a result, add more value.
So, it all about trust. There are several companies that have understood that message. Previously, we looked at Semco and Zappos who work according to the same principles. But even within the financial sector there is another inspiring example to be found: the Swedish Handelsbanken.
The Swedish Handelsbanken operates according to, what they call, the 'church tower principle': all customers should ‘be visible from the church tower’. The relationship with the customer comes first. There are no sales targets; it is about creating value for the customer. The only objective is to achieve a ‘Return on Equity’, which is better than the industry.
Within the Swedish Handelsbanken there are only three layers of management. More layers are viewed to be ineffective: ‘Hierarchy creates mummies’. The organisation chart is horizontal: Managers move between corporate, regions and branches, and back again. Branch managers have complete freedom: no plans, no budgets, no bonuses. It is however important to act in line with the values of the bank. Entrepreneurship, passion and network-oriented thinking are the building blocks of the company. This goes back 44 years, when the bank was in bad shape. And in 2014, this approach still very much alive. The message is clear: the one who puts people first, creates a proactive improvement climate. And that is the way to a sustainable future.
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