Why IQ is nothing without EQ at Financial Markets

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4 February 2016

Wholesale Banking’s Financial Markets has trained the “soft skills” of its 350 sales staff, to help them restore trust and form a more personal relationship with their clients. Here’s how one of the toughest businesses of ING is shifting from IQ to EQ.

The financial industry and its clients are being affected by a fast-changing unstable world. Whether these changes are political, economic, technological, or related to sustainability, one thing is clear: banks must develop a new culture, values, attitudes and behaviours.

At ING Wholesale Banking’s Financial Markets, this means taking a more creative and social approach to a business built on the brainpower of its workforce.

“Financial markets were driven very much by IQ in the past,” said Mark Pieter de Boer, global head of Financial Markets (FM) Sales at Wholesale Banking. “That’s not enough anymore.”

“It’s no longer tenable for banks to create innovative products and sell them individually from different bank silos to clients, regardless of whether they’re the best thing for the client’s total business model or environment. Companies want their banks investing in customer service and solutions that they need, not on what they can be sold,” de Boer said.

Two years ago, de Boer and his team began bringing social aspects of emotional intelligence, known as EQ, into leadership, communication, performance and consequence management and training.

The overriding theme guiding this is the need to rebuild trust. This new approach requires them to create a more intimate relationship with clients as well as to change the way they see themselves (their self-orientation). This results more in a win-win situation, where banker and client are “in it together”.

Mark Pieter de Boer

Financial markets were driven very much by IQ in the past. That’s not enough anymore.

Mark Pieter de Boer, global head of Financial Markets Sales, Wholesale Banking

Soft skills

All 350 FM Sales staff have undertaken an intensive EQ programme, “training them on soft skills like being aware of your own feelings and those of others, regulating these feelings in yourself and others, using emotions that are appropriate to the situation, self-motivation, and building relationships,” de Boer said.

ING FM’s new approach is also mirrored in ING Bank’s global Orange Code, which sets out how employees are expected to behave, articulating the value of focusing on emotional intelligence. The Orange Code behaviours have been built into the performance evaluation process at ING.

“Our training programme has changed fundamentally,” de Boer said. “The key is now the TRUST equation, where trust is an expression not only of how credible and reliable you are, but also how emotionally close and open you are. And we needed to work on decreasing selfish drivers, as they stand in the way of customer intimacy.”

With clients, too

While the initial focus was on development of staff, ING Financial Market Sales is now moving into a new phase of training that emphasises how greater awareness translates into dealing with clients. One of the aspects of rebuilding trust that is most eye-catching is a new transparency on costs.

“We are starting to provide clients the building blocks of pricing, giving insights to what they are paying for, which is not something a lot of banks do because they are afraid of losing business,” de Boer said.

“We don’t want to be in a position where we only compete on a price determined by the market. We want to get the price discussion off the table. We want a personal, value-added approach.”

We want to get the price discussion off the table. We want a personal, value-added approach

Mark Pieter de Boer

And it’s working

And to those who say that such woolly notions as EQ have no place in banking, he highlights some tangible benefits. A McKinsey survey on the culture of the bank found that ING FM Sales ranks above the industry norm, and that it has higher staff engagement relative to its peers. People are more motivated and there is greater collaboration between departments, with productivity increasing by 10 percent.

Clients like the new approach as well, seeing it as a refreshing change from their dealings with other banks. “Our growth is above the industry norm but more importantly, 80 percent of that growth is coming from existing clients, showing the positive effect that this approach has in terms of customer loyalty,” de Boer said.

This positive client reaction has translated into an industry leading increase in revenues at a time when the sector has been under pressure. Clients are interested in the training materials, too.

“We may get to the point where we do some of this training together with clients,” he said. “Much of the time we are sat opposite them and each side is trying to guess what the other is thinking. If we have been through the same training process together, there is no need for that.”

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