Guest comment: How not to manage a bevy of bankers

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Robin Linnecar, partner at coaching company Praesta, looks at the most common mistakes made when managing finance professionals.

Promoting deal doers

Banks frequently promote on ability to broker big deals rather than on management skills. Individuals who lack the qualities needed to cope with people suddenly find themselves with a managerial remit and, while shouting louder at someone may get an immediate reaction, it is often a negative one! It certainly doesn't help forge team spirit or build trust to work on the next transaction.

Part of the solution is to nurture the softer skills needed to be a manager from day one. Recruits should be seen as 'embryonic leaders' and should be encouraged to develop the management skills as well as the technical skills that they will need as they climb the ladder.

Nurturing the 'lone wolf' mentality

Investment banking can be a solitary job - you work as an individual, competing with your colleagues for the biggest clients, the hottest deals and the fattest bonus. But organisations suffer if knowledge and advice isn't shared. Banks can benefit from encouraging more senior bankers to share their experience with juniors. The senior gets the satisfaction of helping another; the organisation benefits because knowledge is being shared, not lost; and the junior gains invaluable advice.

Bigging up the bonus

Money is the main driver for most bankers. But managers need to widen the source of satisfaction for their employees. Corporate social responsibility projects are a good place to start. Several banks now give staff time to undertake reading, numbers and IT partner work with pupils in primary and junior schools. The kids feel recognised by someone other than their teacher, and staff develop their interpersonal skills.

Curtseying to the client

The client is king to investment banks. This is necessarily the case, but there's a tendency for bankers to adopt a slave mentality - bowing to clients' sometimes impossible demands, without daring to discuss the alternatives. The best managers encourage their team to be assertive, set reasonable boundaries and negotiate where necessary. Client relationships are likely to last longer as a result.

Neglecting diversity

Remember, all clients are individuals with different profiles and different working styles. If you retain only individualistic people, you won't be able to respond well to a client who's focused on team work. The answer lies in hiring a diverse range of recruits.

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