We had the honour of sitting down with Dr. Leda Glyptis, Chief Client Officer of 10x Banking, and author of ‘Bankers Like Us’.
We discussed the process of launching a book, ‘furnishing predictability with change’, and whether or not it’s possible to keep a rebellious spirit when a group gets widespread consensus.
* You can order Dr. Leda Glyptis’ book “Bankers Like Us Dispatches from an Industry in Transition”here.
How has the reception of the book been?
I’m buzzing still, I must admit. When you’re writing, it’s a very solitary process, but when it’s time to put it out in the world – I felt a bit like Frodo from lord of the rings – I don’t want to let it go! And though I absolutely know not everyone out there would love it, I haven’t heard any negative comments yet. People have been really positive.
What sort of things are you hearing?
People who have read it, they’ve told me they feel less alone. The CEO of a bank we’re working with said it’s the first business book he read and laughed out loud. That was really nice to hear.
So it’s been a really nice feeling, and also quite emotional. My parents don’t speak English really, but Tanya [Tanya Andreasyan, MD and Editor in Chief of Fintech Futures] said ‘get them to the launch’ and she was insistent. If it hadn’t been for her, I would have kept it quiet. I think that’s because there’s a little bit of me, the working class kid, that says “you’re being conceited”. But actually that’s not true! And I had so much support in celebrating the book that made me realise that.
Before we dive into the content, a quick question. When I was reading it I found the footnotes really helpful. Who’s idea was that?
That was me. When I started in the industry it really frustrated me that people assume you know everything. Even if you’ve worked in this industry for 40 years, you might never have come across a CUSIP. I’ll explain what it is, and you might forget it because you might never come across it again and that’s fine. But I wanted it to be understandable in the context of the story.
So one of the first things you talk about is “the optimist group”. [For those who might not have read the book yet, you’re working in a Very Big Bank, and looking for people who want to help change the status quo, and not just slide into the same ways of working that have gone before].
You describe it as a ‘tap on the shoulder’ and it’s a very organic unofficial thing. But it really changes the way the Very Big Bank works moving forward.
Can something like that ever be created more formally, or is the organic ‘under the radar’ nature what makes it?
I’ll answer it with the caveat that maybe there’s a way of doing it differently. But for us at the beginning that was the magic of the group. And then when we got busted and got the support of the organisation, it had the advantage that it went beyond the daring, towards people that might be a bit more timid.
Now they knew the company was onside, we could bring more people into the group, and that next group had a lot to offer and were super humble, but they needed to know they wouldn’t get in trouble for being part of this.
That was a golden time.
But as we started getting critical mass and vocal support internally, it became a thing people wanted to be involved in because they wanted ‘to look good’, and that was a problem. We started getting a few passengers, or people who culturally were part of the problem.
I think you don’t have to be a stealth group to have success building something like The Optimists, but it also can’t be something that comes with a badge, because people start to do it for the wrong reasons – it loses its way.
And so much of the book is about people and their behaviour – and how that impacts the industry’s reluctance to change. You talk about ‘Furnishing change with predictability’, to help people ease into a new way of working. How does that work?
It’s not a one size fits all, but let me give you an example. In one of my roles, we had an initiative called the Time Bank. It was a rip off of something one of my friends had created in his community where you could contribute hours of your expertise. So if you were a physio you would donate a few hours of your services to the community, if you were a chef it would be time to cook meals etc etc.
I liked the idea of it and took it to the bank and said “look I’m going to create a ‘Time Bank’ initiative for the operations teams”. They’re going to have these ideation sessions where they work on projects big and small to see how they can make efficiencies. But I had to say “you need to commit to me that you’re not going to use this time saving project to make redundancies.”
One of the biggest reasons why people resist making changes to run a business more efficiently, is because your friend from accounts will get fired… or you will get fired! So what’s the up-side to creating a more efficient process?
So we took away that scary outcome, and said there’s no downside to you doing this. You can be creative here, you can feel more in control of your job, and we promise you – you will not be fired.
Part of the reason we did the whole project was to reduce overtime, and people started putting ideas in place that did this. But they also increased employee engagement scores, they increased client KPIs and people would use the time to take longer lunches, to go to the gym, to do a training course etc.
It was hugely successful, but they needed that predictability, that reliability, that this change wouldn’t see them out of a job.
Coming onto my final question, and something I know that’s will be of interest to The Heard’s audience specifically. I loved your quote towards the end of the book on diversity.
“A diverse world is not a world where men DON’T make it to the top, it’s a world where white men aren’t the ONLY ones who make it to the top.” Can we talk about that a little?
You know the Ruth Bader Ginsberg quote about how many women are enough women in the supreme court?
When I’m sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the supreme court]? And I say when there are nine, people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.”– Ruth Bader Ginsburg
I’m a feminist, and I was shocked when I saw that. It is so alien, but it’s true. An all women group is so ‘unusual’, but all men teams are normal.
Really, women are about 49% of the population of the planet. Then allow for intersectionality, people of colour, sexual orientation, people of different class backgrounds etc. You realise the people who are actually holding all the cards and making the decisions, THEY are the minority.
And I absolutely f*cking resent how the language of inclusion is language of concession. Like, we’re being done a favour. All we’re asking is people stop doing us harm.
And a small detour from that, but being an ally, a real ally, is the hardest job. You have to go to battle in the room and stick up for people. You have to do the difficult things, the tough conversations. And you hope one day, someone will do it for you.
I absolutely agree. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat to us today and being so candid about your experience – both with writing and launching the book, and all the moments you shared in it.