GUEST COMMENT: Stop telling me banking is like the military

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I'm always bemused when bosses at the bank I work for use military analogies. On the one hand the need for teamwork and effort are synonymous, but on the other there are far larger differences than similarities between the two. I have sampled both environments and I know.

In the military, everyone joins at the same rank within their peer group. They all go through the same selection process and they are all imbued with the same ethics, code and way of doing things. They become a largely homogenous body. People who don't fit are discarded.

In banking, exactly the opposite applies. People enter a bank at various levels and change banks throughout their career. A few years in and many of them have gone through completely different training schemes and are imbued with different workplace cultures. Because of the international nature of investment banking they also tend to come from many different countries. It is impossible to impose a singular culture on such a diffuse bunch; they will have very diverse attitudes on everything. As such, the concept of comradeship that underpins the military is largely absent.

The second difference is that everybody in a fighting unit is utterly reliant on the support and backup of their comrades, even to the extent of sacrificing their lives; we have seen plenty of evidence of this in Iraq and Afghanistan. Units would cease to function if there was an 'every man for himself' ethos: comradeship is the essential glue of the military. Imagine if you paid soldiers of the same rank different rates of pay dependent on how they performed in battle; you would soon have a very dysfunctional unit!

However, in banking all individuals are in competition with other members of their teams in a sort of dynamic tension. They will all support one another and be 'on the team' so long as they shine individually. Their individual performance is reflected in their pay, so it is inherent to act selfishly. It is a very difficult for the management of a bank to keep the appropriate balance between personal aggrandisement and team ethos. What makes it all the more difficult is that in terms of personality type bankers tend to be have more selfish characteristics than

soldiers; they are, after all, in it for the money!

So next time some boss exhorts you to pull out all the stops for the team by using military analogies, you can question his rationale for doing so. Banking has more differences than similarities with the military and I sincerely question the credentials of anyone who tells you otherwise.

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