If you want to get ahead in a bank, you will need to be known as a team player. Every appraisal at every firm I’ve ever worked for has included a review on my for enthusiasm for contributing to the well-being of the team. Every appraisal conversation I’ve ever had with a manager has included something along the lines of, “You’ve worked well within your team, but now you need to expand your teamwork to the rest of the floor.” Being a team player is the sort of thing that has no end.
It is also utter cr*p. In banking you are a team player at your own risk. And yet if you don’t perfect the art of appearing to be a team player, it will be used as a stick to beat you with at bonus time. – It’s one of the common weaknesses a manager will use against you in the annual review.
So what can you do about it? The art is this: you must be a team player, but only in areas where the ramifications will not damage you. For example, you do not want to be a team player when you’re building a relationship with a client; you do not want to take your “team” to a client meeting. Every client now interacts with dozens of employees at a bank and the reality is that you need to fight for your tiny share of that – not dilute it. A former manager of mine insisted on attending all my big client meetings and seeing all the emails I sent to them. – Eventually he took over all those accounts himself. This happens a lot. Beware.
Instead of being a team player, you need to play the game. When you’re in sales, this means you need to big-up your colleagues in call reports and to mention them in a nice way in group meetings. Nothing more. Where I work, cross-selling functionality was developed in our CRM tool but no one used it – because no one wants to introduce their client to someone else.
In a bank, therefore, being a team player is an exercise in politics. It’s about saying one thing and doing another. You need to know the right words: to talk about cross-selling, to say you’re leveraging the team, to reference how important everyone else is, and to quietly get on with building your own profile. Teamwork in banking is all about dropping colleagues’ names and networking relentlessly so that people know who you are and what you do. If you’re gullible enough to do any more than that you can expect to get burned.
Arnaud LeManche is the pseudonym of a salesperson in U.S. bank