Many new entrants into banking complain about the culture, often comparing it enviously to that of the tech world, where their former classmates are strolling into the office in jeans while banging out work on a beanbag chair. But what would a traditional bank even look like if it embraced a more laidback culture? And would employees actually prefer it? Berkshire Hills Bank is providing some answers to both those questions.
The somewhat unknown Boston-based bank has quietly grown its assets from $1b to $11.5b since 2002, when it was taken over by unconventional chief executive Michael Daly. “We’re not boring,” Daly told the Wall Street Journal in an exposé. Dubbed “America’s most exciting bank” (by Daly himself), Berkshire Hills doesn’t allow employees to wear suits, plays rock music at every meeting and hosted lip-sync battles where bankers dressed up like members of the band KISS. Daly even once “let it rain” at an employee town hall, throwing out $100 bills to a crowd of employees.
Daly’s unconventional leadership style pushes beyond fun and games, however. He writes hundreds of handwritten notes to his 1,900 employees every month and hands out his cellphone number to new employees who join via acquisition, encouraging them to “come get in [his] face” to prove they’re worth keeping around, according to the Journal. He’s been known to hire outside of traditional channels to find talent, including bringing on two former clothing store salespeople who impressed Daly with their energy.
Does every employee love the culture? Daly acknowledged that not all do, noting executives who don’t buy in tend to move on rather quickly. Roughly 40 employee reviews on Glassdoor paint a muddled picture, with some staff applauding the relaxed dress code and culture while others complained about a lack of training and “juvenile” co-workers. The average Glassdoor rating is a 2.1 out of 5; Daly has a 33% approval rating from employees. Berkshire Hills is a retail bank, but it’s building up its wealth management, private banking and commercial lending businesses.
Elsewhere, the co-owner of a London private equity firm may have taken the cake for the worst office party foul in the industry. Elvaston Capital’s Oliver Thum allegedly brought his mistress to the office shindig, prompting his wife to file for divorce two days later, according to the Telegraph.
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