Based on his extensive experience working with 15,000+ executives from across the globe - ranging from the top-team at Ben & Jerry's to bankers in Amsterdam - Nick Craig discusses how to thrive rather than just survive in a world of uncertainty by living and leading from purpose. He will help delegates understand why purpose has gone from being optional to necessary in today's banking environment. Nick will bring his first-hand experience of helping international banks bring purpose alive - from helping the Development Bank of Singapore define its organizational purpose to rolling out purpose to the top 5,000 leaders at a global bank. Nick will help us all understand how we can leverage purpose as an antidote to uncertainty.
Nick Craig: I get a chance to spend some time with you today, and I wanted to help you understand how purpose fits into the real world of banking, and to the real world that we all live in. So, "People who labor all their life but have no purpose are wasting their time even when hard at work." For most of you reading this you go, "Well, this is probably not very good for me." Yes? Is that I don't know what my purpose is. I'm working pretty hard.
Now, this is a quote we might imagine seeing some recent times, but the interesting thing is, is this particular quote is 2,000 years old. So, Marcus Aurelius was the emperor of Rome. The value, the importance of purpose has been around for a very long time. So, the real question becomes is, why all of a sudden, why are we actually at a conference on banking on purpose? 10 years ago, would we be doing that?
So, here's a question, when I was a kid, when you were a kid, did people say to you, "So, what do you think your purpose is?" No, what they said was, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Now, as a kid, how are you supposed to figure out the answer to that question? You say policeman, doctor, lawyer, whatever the case may be, but for the most part you have absolutely no idea what those things are.
Now, I don't know about you, but when I was a kid it wasn't that that I was interested in. I was interested in the cool things I saw on TV, and the cool people on TV, and I wanted to be like them. So, what I wanted to be was I wanted to be either an engineer, a doctor, maybe a science officer, yeah, or really cool is a starship captain. Do you know what I'm saying? That's the kind of stuff I was interested in.
Now, the challenge is, is those jobs weren't exactly ones that you could go find, but if I looked at what I was energized about that would've been cool. So, I'll show you as close as I've come to pulling this off. Okay, now this is a costume, and I wear it every Halloween, and the girls always, "Dad, could you … Are you ever going to change the costume?" I'm like, "No, I really like this costume." I look like Jean-Luc Picard. So, the funny part is the closest I'm going to come to the dream I had as a kid is the costume.
Now, here's the opportunity, is purpose actually allows us to own the suit that we were always meant to wear that only we can wear. It's just as cool as this one is, but the challenge is, the challenge is if you don't know what it is, it's hard to put it on and own it. Sometimes you're in it, and sometimes you're not, but when you know it you can own it. In some sense that's the gift of purpose.
Now, why has this become so popular? Here's the thing I saw, I saw this looking in the internet, Party With a Purpose. I'm like, "Okay, so even parties have purpose now." Now, the other one that has become very ubiquitous these days is a story. I don't know if you've seen this one about the janitor. Story goes, it's 1961, there's a janitor at NASA, and he's doing the floors, and in walks Kennedy and his entourage. Kennedy walks up to this guy, and he shakes his hand and says, "So, what do you do?"
Now, it's pretty obvious to everybody standing there what the guy does. So, the guy says, "Well, I'm helping put a man on the moon." Cool answer, right? Now, the message for all of this is, truth be told, much of what we all do every day looks and feels like this. What changes it is why we do it. What is the thing that we're bringing to this that no one else does that haves it have very different meaning that it's just sweeping the floor?
Now, that story has been around for 50 years, but it's only all of a sudden now become sexy. So, why? I want to just give you a sense of why this has happened. Now, what I'm going to do is go back to about 2007. In 2007, I was working with a colleague, a guy named Bill George, who is a professor at Harvard Business School, and he was teaching courses on authentic leadership, and this was the list of all the things that we knew we needed to cover in a 14 week program for MBAs at Harvard.
I was working with him to actually figure out how to make the class work, and design it, and figure all this stuff out. One of the things that we knew we needed to cover was purpose. The problem was, is it was the one topic that really bombed every time we did it. So, he looked at me and said, "Well, you should fix it." Obviously the low man on the totem pole gets the parts that don't work, so that was me.
So, I figured some stuff out, and then all of a sudden we get a phone call from GE. They say, "Can you do something for the top 300?" We're just like, "Sure, we'd love to." We say, "Well, here's the cafeteria list of options." They go, "Boom, boom, boom, and we want purpose as well." I go, "You don't want purpose.", because I'm like, "Oh my God, this thing isn't working, I don't think they want this." They say, "No, you don't understand, we're GE. You don't get to choose." I'm like, "Oh, okay. Here we go."
Now, this is the good old days when GE was still big GE. So, we go, and I get to teach programs to some of the top 300 in one of the most famous places called Crotonville where they all sort of … Jack Welch used to fire people, and all the other stuff. They took me to a room they called The Pit, and they said, "You're going to go stand down there, and that's where Jack used to fire people." I go, "Oh, really clear message. If I screw up, what's going to happen?" Okay, go down, I start teaching this stuff. From 2007 to 2010 the stock goes from 56 to 6. I was extremely helpful.
Well, the good news is, is that if you really want to see what sticks, see what sticks when things aren't going well. So 2010, the alumni are coming back from 2007, and people are saying, in the audience they're saying, "So, you took this course before the recession, here we are sort of getting out of it, so of all the stuff you did, what was useful?" I looked at them and said, "Most everything you're going to learn is not going to help you." They're like, "Oh no, what are we going to do now?"
He says, "But this guy in the back of the room, actually what he taught me is the only thing I was able to use.", and I'm like, "What is he talking about?" He said, "Purpose.", and I almost fell off my chair, I'm like, "Really?" He said, "Listen, in 2008 all the stock options I'd give everybody the worked for me was useless. There were going to be no bonuses, we're going to probably cut salaries." Jeff had just come and said that we might sell the business, but I knew if I didn't keep this group together there'd be no hope and it would just be a fait accompli.
But the problem is, is I had nothing to stand on. Enormous uncertainty all around me, and then I remembered my purpose. He said, "Look, my purpose is to be the white-water raft guide that safely gets you to the other side." Now, when he said that he stood it from the conviction of when he was 21 year old that was his profession, and he literally, literally had saved three or four people from dying. The whole group got that that was the essence and the purpose of who he was, and they said, "Jim, that's the only reason we're here. Let's get on with it."
So, he said that, and I go, "Whoa, purpose and uncertainty, it's like, purpose eats uncertainty. Oh, that is incredible.", and I proceeded the next day to pretty much forget that for the next 10. I'm a little stupid. So, in the process of writing this book I started interviewing all these people, and we'd interview it, and then we'd talk about a bunch of really cool things, and then they at some point in the interview go, "No, no, no, you're not getting it."
Look, when the darkest of the darkest nights of massive uncertainty in which I had to lead myself and lead other people, purpose was the one thing that actually, when I pulled it out, helped me in a way that nothing else did, and each one of them told a story just like this one. So, in some sense as we were talking with the previous presentation, we all hate uncertainty. So, where do you find solid ground?
As you saw with my colleague Brandy, when she stood up here, she stood on the solid ground of her purpose. In some sense, that's the opportunity for all of us, and if I know an industry that right now has a lot of uncertainty in it, banking is at the top of the list.
Now, I'm talking about uncertainty, but let's check in the room and see where we're at, what the temperature is. So, if you think about the business you work in, and the world you're operating in today compared to five years ago, do you think today … How many of you think today the world is more certain? Raise your hand. How many of you think the world is more uncertain today? Raise your hand.
Okay now, next question, usually we think of the future more positively than the current times. So, five years from now, do you believe the world that you operate in and the business will be more certain, or less certain? So, how many thing more certainty five years from now? How many? Okay, a couple of you. How many thing more uncertainty five years from now?
Well, that's the world in which you have to do predictable forecasting, and you have to lead your organization, and you actually have to look like you actually know what you're doing. So, in some sense, the big reason why purpose has become so much more important is it is one of the few things that someone doesn't give you or take away from you.
Your job, your role, your expertise, someone installed and someone can de-install or make no longer relevant, but purpose is the one thing that will never change for you. It is the most certain thing you will ever have, and if you're going to lead, it's one of the key ingredients that you need to lead, especially in the banking world, or any world where the level of uncertainty is what it is.
Now, I think we live in a certainty/uncertainty paradox. There are now things, compared to 10 years ago, that are so certain they just announced a couple days ago that Amazon's going to do same day delivery. I can get a grand piano the same day I order it. Enormous certainty the packages will show up. I don't know what the neighbors are going to do, or the neighbors will steal whatever, that's a whole different story, but at least they'll show up.
Now, here's another fun one. So, this is what shows up on my phone now. I now get a text saying what time it's going to rain. Now, I never wanted this text, I never … but it's kind of interesting that I now know exactly what time it's going to start raining. Okay, so I have enormous certainty about something I almost don't really care about. Now, here's a really fun one, I also got this one. "Giant asteroid approaches the earth." I'm like, "Oh, my God." It's not hitting anything, but why do I need to know this?
So, useless wonderful certainty about things that don't matter, and now what's wrong with this sign? What's wrong with the sign? It's melting. Now, when was the last time you saw a street sign melt? Street signs aren't supposed to melt. Well, except for in Arizona, in Phoenix last summer when it was 120 degrees day in and day out, and oh, by the way, there's some other thing that didn't work, the airplanes couldn't take off. They're not designed for that temperature. So, we are starting to live in a world in which all the rules are changing, all the things that have been predictable and stable are no longer that, even more reason why purpose matters.
I'll just show you, here's a bunch of really happy people. I mean, this is the news. You open the news, every day I open the news I am just in shock. Yesterday, I mean, we got borith, it's the whole thing with the senate, and so forth. The whole challenge of … it's like, I've never imagined 10, 5 years ago, if somebody said, "Here's what the newspaper's going to look like every day.", you'd go, "What are you talking about?" Okay, welcome to the show. This is the world in which you have to lead.
So, the real question at some level is, how do you lead yourself? Now, some of you might say, "Oh great, yeah, uncertainty, la la la." But here's one where I think you all have suffered from uncertainty. You have two job opportunities, and you try to decide which one. How many of you have been in that place? How many of you'd like to be in that place? Nobody likes that place.
The problem you have is you have to make a decision, but you don't have the information you really need to make the right choice, and by the time you find out six months later, you cannot go back. You've moved your family, you've bet the farm, and that's the deal. What I discovered over and over again as I was interviewing people is when they stepped into their purpose, their purpose gave them deep, deep clarity as to which job made sense, which job was truly honoring the gift of who they are.
So, let me give you one example. Jostein Solheim has a purpose, "To help others thrive in paradox and ambiguity for things that really matter." Now, when you have a purpose like this what this means is that you are really great in times of chaos and uncertainty, and the stories that he told of growing up in Norway, and sailing, and the disasters, and how everyone else freaked out. How when that was the moment he was the calmest person, and he got everybody back safely, story, after story, after story just made it so clear that this is who he was.
When I met him in about 2011, he was doing his sixth or seventh turnaround of a very large business, and he was promised that after 23 years of going all over the globe he would finally be able to now get a two step promotion, six figure raise, the iron … I mean, not … but the gold handcuffs with the stock options, move to London, and basically have the corner office.
One problem, the company he was turning around in the moment, he loved the people, they loved him. It was in the middle of nowhere, his family hated it, they were just dying to go to London. So, do you turn down the thing you've spent your life working toward, or you take the risk working with these crazy people that love you and you love them? Which do you do? They got all the extrinsics up here, all the intrinsics over here.
That's be a torturous choice, yes? But when we looked at his purpose it became as clear as day. It was not even a question, Jostein is the CEO of Ben & Jerry's. Now, if I told you Ben & Jerry's was the option, you all would've gone Ben & Jerry's, yes? Now, what he's done over eight years, he stayed for eight years, is he took the business, if you as bankers, from half a billion to a billion. Now, to do that in eight years, that's pretty good double digit growth. In a market … Ice cream is a declining market relative to if you look at the big brands they're all losing market share, Ben & Jerry's continues to grow.
Now, when he went back to Ben & Jerry's and he told them he was staying, everybody that had worked for Ben & Jerry, who are out looking for other jobs, because they were going to leave, tore up their resumes and all stayed. With that, they then came and sat down with him, and they said, "Here are the dreams that we have, and what we want to do that everyone else has said no to." Some of those dreams are really edgy, crazy dreams, and here's what some of them look like.
Speaker 2: Ben & Jerry's is trending on the release of its latest flavor Schweddy Balls, which pays homage to the classic SNL sketch featuring Molly Shannon, Ana Gasteyer, and Alec Baldwin.
Alec Baldwin: They're made from a secret Schweddy family recipe. No one can resist my Schweddy Balls.
Speaker 2: And what exactly do Schweddy Balls taste like? Vanilla ice cream with a hint of rum loaded with fudge covered rum balls and milk chocolate rum balls. Not bad. Ben & Jerry's is renowned for inventing flavors that go hand in hand with popular culture. Past flavors include Festivus: an Ice Cream For the Rest of Us from Seinfeld, and more recently Stephen Colbert's, Americone Dream.
Nick Craig: Okay, so I'm going to say something I never thought I'd say to a bunch of bankers, Schweddy Balls. Now, when he released this everybody in the corporate headquarters of Unilever lost it. They said, "This is a disaster." The CEO of Walmart at a board meeting screamed at everybody saying, "We're never going to sell Schweddy Balls.", and took it off … you couldn't buy it.
Now, the Ben & Jerry's guys thought it was the best thing on the planet that they got this guy in Arkansas to say those words. They were like, "Yes!" Now, what did Jostein really do? Look, the financial risk, the business risk here was enormous. He had a bunch of mother's groups saying, "We're not buying Ben & Jerry's.", because all their teenage boys were screaming Schweddy Balls all the time.
But he didn't do it for that reason. Why he did it was he looked at the employees, and they were looking him and saying, "If you're staying, are you really going to help Ben & Jerry's be back to being the court jester? The one that gives the finger to the man that when people buy it they know at the end of the day that it's the one rebellious thing they can do, even though it may not actually be good for you?", and he basically got them back.
Now, they've done a Black Lives Matter flavor, they've done all kind of social justice, they did wild things to the point where at one point Ben calls up Jostein and said, "You out Ben'd me." But that's what purpose will do, it'll have you finally follow the path that's the one that is yours.
So, everybody's a genius. This is a famous guy here, you probably can say that, Einstein, "But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it's stupid." Think about it, how many of us have spent our life climbing the tree somebody else says we're supposed to climb? How many of you have had 360s done on you?
Assessments, all of these things that are about how good are you at climbing the tree, and the challenge becomes is maybe the tree isn't what we should be climbing, but because there's nothing else telling us what to do we try. What would it be like if you actually knew? That's what we're talking about.
So, I'm going to show you a famous, famous commercial. The original was done with the voiceover of Richard Dreyfuss, but the actual person who pretty much wrote this, and he wrote it not as a message to the world, but as a message to the employees of this company when they were in a very difficult time. It was his first product as he came back and took over. Here we go.
Steve: Here's to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble makers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, about the only thing you can't do is ignore them, because they change things, and push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.
Nick Craig: You've never heard that version. So, that's Steve, and it was his contract with … truly his sole contract with Apple, and his message was to the employees saying, "Come, let's do this." Now, what I love about that is that the last scene is of a kid, and what I'll tell you about purpose is, is if the curious kid inside of you doesn't show up it's not purpose. Most of us have put the curious kid in the trunk of the car for safe keeping and forgot about it, but it's when you put it next to you in the driver seat, in some sense, if I look at it from the perspective of who do you want to be led by, somebody for which the scared kid is running the show, or somebody in which it's the curious kid is running the show. It doesn't take much to answer that question.
Purpose is that unique gift that you bring to the world. Now, what am I really saying? If I replaced all of you with someone just as good looking, competent, smart, brilliant, creative as you are, and then three months later I came back and interviewed everybody and said, "So, what do you miss?" The answer to that question would be your purpose. There's many people that could do Brandy's job, but nobody can do Brandy's job as mom. That's her contract with who she is. In some sense the opportunity is for each of us to know what it is.
So, it only happens when you show up. When you're not there it doesn't show up. Other people have the same skills, this is not about skill. No one can give it to you or take it away. With that, it works in all contexts. So, how you do it when you're a parent versus in a board meeting is going to look very different, the strategies are different, but the underlying purpose is the same. It's been leading you all your life.
Look, we're not talking about installing purpose. But the challenge is it's only present if you listen. It's only present … Look, if you think about hard decisions and how many voices are in your head, and how many people you go for for advice, the challenge is none of those voices tend to be that deep sense of clarity, of wisdom, of purpose. When it is, you know it. But those are the decisions when purpose needs to show up.
So, in some ways, the funny part about this is I get people who say, "Oh, I know what purpose is going to get me, purpose is you love it, you're very good at it, you're paid well for it, and the world needs it." I'm like, "If you got all those things going for you, you don't need any purpose." The funny thing is, is what I find is famous people, movie stars, they have all this, and then their career goes off track, and then you go to the grocery story and you look in the little newspaper, and here's somebody on rehab, and you're like, "Oh, that's what happens when that falls apart." Welcome to no purpose.
So, purpose is needed when you resist it, you are humbled by it, it isn't the easy path, and you have to do it anyway. That's the world of purpose. That's where purpose shows up. Now, here's a bunch of really interesting people through time, and for all of them I think that was the case. If you read all their stories there wasn't anything easy about the choices they had to make, but if they hadn't made those choices our lives would not be as good as they are today.
Now, we've seen a lot of famous people, but then you go, "Well, that's great this all works for those people, but what about for me?" Well, here's the good news. How many of you have eaten Jif peanut butter in your life? How many of you have a kid experience, or remembering the first time you had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Yeah? Okay, me too. So, I'm running a program, and I walk up to this guy and say, "So, what do you do?" He says, "I'm in charge of Jif peanut butter." I go, "Really?" I'm like, "Oh, that is so cool."
Now, the guy who's in charge of Jif peanut butter is not going to cure cancer, end hunger, or feed the poor. The challenge for most of us is the jobs we do are about as impactful on all those cool things as selling Jif peanut butter. But here's the thing, most the people I've worked with, the 15,000 plus people I've worked with over the last 15 years, what they did for a living is they sold Jif peanut butter. Actually, this is the group of people that need purpose. These are the janitors in the world.
Look, it's not sexy what we do, but the truth is if we bring purpose to it, it changes our relationship to why we're doing it, and what it is. In some sense, that's the true gift of purpose. Now, for those of you who are saying, "This is great, but I need some numbers.", here's the numbers. If you're in an organization that has a real sense of purpose and the people have a sense of meaning, the numbers are compelling as to what the benefits are. When an organization has a sense of purpose, and people have purpose, and the other one doesn't, the one's going to do much better. There's even research looking at the 50 best brands with purpose, and it shows that they were 400% more profitable than the other ones.
The same's true if you have a leader that you work for. Your sense of purpose working for them is going to have a huge impact on what you do and how productive you are. So, there's the numbers. But in some ways the numbers don't really say the power of what we're talking about. So, there's three sources of purpose that I found of how you access it, and this gets to your stories. One is magical moments from your childhood. Second is those challenging crucible experiences in our life that test us, and it's how we dig ourselves out. And the third is something you love doing that's a passion that's been there for a very long time. You may not be good at it, but you love doing anyway. These are access points.
So, let me tell you the first one. Magical moments. This guy's Geert, he's the treasurer of ING. Now, I'm not a banker, but for the most part in my life my image of treasurers are the guys that sit on the treasure chest and make sure nobody gets in. Sort of as a kid version of this. I know what CFOs do, finance people do, but whenever I meet a treasurer I'm always just confused as to what do these people do, really? So, I ask him, and he says, "Well, we're the bank within the bank. We're responsible for the financial instruments that allow us to give loans.", and I go, "Oh, that's a pretty serious job." I say, "What possibly would be his purpose?"
So, we go on the journey, and when we do the stories of what was the magical moment when he was a kid he says, "Well, when I was about 14 or 15 years old we lived in some place in Belgium, and we went to this place we went camping, and it was a place where there was a World War I battle, and I decided one day I was going to start digging until I got something." He's digging, he's digging, he's about three feet down. Everybody else thinks he's lost his mind, and he hits something. Geert's purpose is to dig and always find the medal. He found a medal, a military medal. Now, you can't think of a better purpose for a guy who is treasurer.
So, he calls home, and says to his wife, "Well, here's my purpose.", because he's testing out to see if he's lost his mind and if Nick has any idea what he's talking about, and his wife just sort of gasps and says, "That is truly who you are, but my question is, do you still have the medal?" He says, "Yes.", and he told her where to go get it. Would you like to see it? You want to see it?
Nick Craig: That's the medal. He still has it. So, it so captures his gift. Now, the second story I'll tell you is about challenging life stories. So, instead of telling somebody else's I'll tell you mine. I love my Banking on Purpose water thing, this is really cool. For some of us, our purpose shows up best when the world kicks us the hardest, and how we dig ourselves out is a beautiful expression of our purpose. Now, many of you might be right now thinking of some of those magical kid moments you have, that's great. But for others of us, we really need the universe to kick our butt before we see it.
So, when I was about 15 or 16 years old I wasn't camping, I was … my parents had moved to Charleston, South Carolina, and we were living in a basement apartment overlooking a swamp. I was going to the worst school system in the United States for which we had moved during the middle of the year, which made it really challenging, and I was a nerdy kid. I wasn't very social, so if I had a reason to be a victim it was pretty good at this point in time. My parents, by the way, were also having the worst time in their 50 year marriage that was happening when we were living in a basement apartment overlooking a swamp. Interesting metaphor, right?
So, I remember riding my bike to this bookstore, and for whatever reason I started looking at these books, I looked at books about Lincoln, and Gandhi, Winston Churchill, a whole bunch of other people, and I would look at the table of contents, and what I realized as I was reading through these books, and taking a look at it is every one of them had been truly tested in ways that even I'd never imagined, but the result of it was that they had done something truly compelling. So, in that moment I realized that my real reason for being on this planet was to discover what we're each possible of doing.
Now, at that moment, did I really see that and have the a-ha? As I look back at it I realize that's when things changed. Now, my purpose is to wake you up, to truly wake you up and have you finally, really, really be home. That's what I basically do for a living. So, I can now look back where 15 was, and start to see the track, the consistency of what happened after that. So, it's a crucible. So, that's my version of the story.
Third way, sometimes it's something you love. This is my friend Joseph, he's a complete nut, he's got a great purpose, which is producer of the multiplayer game, A Better World. Now basically, he loved playing computer games as a kid. Got to the point where he actually designed them growing up. So, here's the thing, most of what I've talked to you about, and having a purpose, whatever, you could argue it'd be great to have at a cocktail party, but how do I use this to actually run a business, run a bank, be effective dealing with customers, all the crazy challenges of hiring the right people, or dealing what I have to deal with?
So, what we normally do, what we do with a lot of people as we work on this journey is we don't end it with just this piece of purpose, what we really say to them is, "The real question is, how are you going to lead from this purpose now that you know? What is it you can longer not do now that you know the truth?" So, what we have them do is create a purpose to impact plan. So, I'm going to show you what one looks like. He liked to use Mario as his metaphor, and what you see here is both job and personal, and he's got some metrics in there that he's working on, but he's also got child 2.0 up and running.
He's got a whole set of … Now, the challenges, or the opportunity that he looked at was he had what he had put into the HR system is what his forecast was for the year, and these numbers were double or triple those numbers, because when he looked at his purpose, his purpose wasn't interested in just getting along. So, he's got a whole set of things in here, and down in the lower right hand inside he has even starting a new political movement in Romania, and adopting child 3.0.
So, this is a contract with your soul, and with the organization as to what are you really here to do? Now, with the ING organization we've done this with the top 5,000 leaders. Here's the deal, if you got people in your organization they got their normal plans that look like a tax form that they fill out with the same enthusiasm as your tax form, which is the trick is to sheet the same way every year, or you have a whole bunch of people to create plans like this, which do you think's going to do better? Which do you want to be leading?
In some ways, what happens is everybody has a conversation about these plans, so this goes down to what is he going to do in six months, three months, 30 days? He's going to gain status on the side. Now, if you've got a fun, crazy plan that just really looks cool, and every time you pull it out it makes you smile, and it reminds you of who you are, you got that plan, or you got the boring plan that looks like a tax form, which do you think's going to be more motivational?
That's what we're talking about. We're talking about how do we help people truly lead for purpose? I'm going to be bringing up Jim here in a second, but on the ING journey over the last three years we started with the top 300, and then we went to the next 5,000, which we've just finished up working on, and now they've said, "Well, let's just roll it out to everybody." So, it's the biggest experiment on purpose on the planet. It's happening in a Dutch bank. Was never part of my plan, and when they all called up originally I was like, "Really, bankers?", but I will tell you it has been an amazing journey. So, what I'd like to now do is welcome up Jim to come talk to you. Give him a big hand, guys.
Okay, Mr. Jim.
Jim: Hello, Nick.
Nick Craig: So, why don't you give them a little background on who you are?
Jim: Of course. Some of this will become relevant later on as I take you through my journey. I'm one of five brothers. I was raised in a small town in New Jersey, my parents are still with us. Grew up there, and then did the usual journey, went off to college, and then ultimately my first act was as a lawyer. I was an employment lawyer for several years, specifically an employment litigator. One of my clients was ING, and at some point somebody got smart at ING and said, "Well, instead of paying this guy's firm $3 million every year, why don't we just bring Jim in house, and let him do what he does for us at a much cheaper cost?"
So, my career then with ING started back in 2000, and continued to do a legal practice, but as in-house counsel. We talk about the different crucible moments, my one concern leaving a law firm was you eat what you kill. You're billing $3 million, $4 million a year, you're good. I'm sure many of you can then recognize this, having probably gone through this in your own careers.
So, I join in May of 2000. In November of 2000, ING announces, "Guess what, we don't want to be in New York anymore." So, they decided they were going to close the bank, and basically sell us all off. Ultimately what happened, they didn't sell the entire bank, but they ended up splitting us up. Two-thirds of the bank went to ABN AMRO, and another third stayed behind, and the way then I got into HR from there, not only did they start selling off two-thirds of the assets, but then they also had to sell off two-thirds of the support areas.
So, a third of the legal department stayed back, and two-thirds of the legal department went over to ABN. The same thing with HR. A third of the HR department stayed back, and two-thirds of the HR department went over to ABN AMRO. Of the two-thirds of the HR department that went to ABN, they took the two most senior people and sent them over. So, the HR department was effectively a rudderless group.
So, for my second act then, I put my hand up and said, "I'd like to take a shot at doing HR. That's easy, I've been counseling these people my whole career, what could it be?" I very quickly found out what it could be and what it could mean having never run a payroll, not knowing what my pension is, and frankly, my wife still takes care of our medical benefits, because I don't have a clue. So, that's kind of how I got to where I am now within the ING world.
Nick Craig: So, who's ING, because most of you probably don't deal with ING on a regular basis?
Jim: I did run into a couple of fellow Americans working with Dutch banks, some of the Rabo guys here, ING is a Dutch bank. It's 55,000 employees worldwide. We're in 45 countries. We've had our highs and our lows. Obviously, back in 2000 when they were selling off was a low, at least for me. We also had to go through the crisis as everyone else did. Many of you will probably recognize ING Direct, that was probably our most recognized brand here in the U.S. That was ultimately sold off to Capital One, and so more low points.
In more recent times in 2017, the magazine Money Market awarded us the title of Best Bank in the World. So, a very proud moment for everybody in the organization to have that to be able to say that. Fast forward a little bit later, and many of you may have read about this in the paper, we get nailed for money laundering in the fall, and get stuck with a fine of about €750 million, that's about $900 million. So, close to a $1 billion in fines.
There have been references to the anonymity that society bears towards bank. It's nothing here in the states compared to what you experience when you go over to Holland. The attitude towards bankers there is you're a mass murdered, and then you're a banker. It's not a very favorable profession to be in, and it makes it hard to operate. It makes it hard to enjoy your successes, but it is an organization, I think, that we are very proud of. It's an organization that has been very innovative, particularly in recent years.
You see the TFLP reference in Nick's slide. TFL stands for Think Forward Leadership, and think forward has been our strategy for the past three years, which then ties exactly back into the idea of finding your purpose. The think forward strategy has parts of it, it's based on innovation, it's based on operating in an agile way, all of which is very disruptive. It's not your bread and butter banking, and of course, look, we don't own the corner of the market on innovation, or on being fast, or being agile, but there's a lot going on at that time.
So, starting at the top of the house, because Nick has given this course not just to managers, he's given it to our CEO, our CFO, our CLO, the head of my banking division. So, this is not just something let's push it down to the troops. This is something that has been owned by the most senior management within the organization. I think the success of it is demonstrated by the fact that we are going to push it down to the entirety of the organization.
Nick Craig: So, tell them your purpose, because you told this story, and everybody's like, "Oh, that sounds like a pretty intense way to get introduced to HR." So, what's your purpose?
Jim: So, my purpose, and sorry I don't have it on a slide, but my purpose is to be the compass that helps others navigate stormy seas.
Nick Craig: You can see the parallel from his stories that he told, and then you look at his purpose, you go, "Oh, I can see why he would … been in that space."
Jim: As Brandy mentioned while she was taking her journey, it's something you refine over time. I could've said, "Be the GPS that helps people find their direction.", but it's very specific. Why a compass, why not a GPS? Because I don't tell people what to do. I give them some direction, some general direction, but ultimately they find their way, and that is my journey in life, is to help people finding their ways. Another word then that you have to parse out is it's stormy seas.
My purpose is not to really help people during the good times, my purpose is to be there when, pardon my French, the shit storm is flying hot and heavy. That's when I shine. To Nick's point, do you always enjoy it? No, but does it energize me? Absolutely. Is it something that I can apply both in my professional and personal life? Absolutely.
Nick Craig: So, why don't you tell them the personal life story, because in some sense we've been talking about work, but I think it's really interesting to look at how purpose shows up in our personal life.
Jim: So, this comes back to my mention that I am one of five brothers, and my parents are elderly. My mother is 84, and my father is 87, and my father has dementia. Even though I'm the middle child, and believe me, created numerous headaches for my parents when I was a younger one, being the pain in the ass to my older brothers, and being the torturer of my younger brothers, somehow along the way I've still ended up as the favorite son to my parents.
So, given my father's dementia, and my mother trying to deal with that and cope with it, I have become effectively the buffer between them, to help them find their way through these moments, and these are daily calls. I'm not going to compare what's going on with my life to what the people at Big Love have to go through, but all of you out there, I'm sure, have had some times in your life where you had a lot of stress, a lot of unhappiness, and having to cope with that.
So, that's an example of where your purpose can impact your personal life, and it's not just a professional thing. It is something that obviously you're living it every day. That's not to say I wake up every morning and say, "Who am I going to be the compass for today?", but it does give you a bit of clarity of thought when you go through certain things.
If I can, very quickly, I'll give a professional example, and Nick, full disclosure, we talked about this before coming in, so Nick said, "It'd be good if you can talk about a professional example." So, I went to my staff, and I told them my purpose. I said, "Can you think of a time where I was living that purpose of being the compass that helped other navigate the stormy seas?"
So, there were a couple examples, there was the sex on the desk story, there was the drug dealing guys in the trading room, but I think I'll save those stories for the bar later on. Probably a better example, and it comes back to the idea of living your purpose, and in my three to five year plan when I did this three years ago, my three to five year plan was I'm not going to be at ING anymore, and that's where this is heading. I'm going to probably leave ING within the next year, it's going to be a very amicable parting, it's something we all agree on.
But my number two, when I asked that question, she said, "You're living your purpose through me every day.", because she's coming to me, she's a candidate to be my successor, but she's one of the candidates, there's a lot of externals as well, and she's struggling with it a lot. She's trying to figure out the politics of the office, she's trying to figure out is she going to get along with the regional CEO, and along the way then I've been trying to guide her, not tell her what to do, but simply guide her and inform her so she can make a decision as to how she's going to conduct herself in this search.
Nick Craig: So, that's in some sense living your purpose day by day, and my sense was if I recall, when you first walked into a room about this size when we were running the program, you weren't a happy camper, were you?
Jim: No, I mean, I may be the HR guy, but I was the anti-Brandy. Brandy worried about taking her homework done, and doing a reflection. I went in cold, I had done none of that. I was probably one of the biggest skeptics in the room. I was, "This is just an HR thing, what's purpose? And how can you be living your purpose based on what you did as a 12 year old, or something like that?" It just … it made no sense to me. The conditions were similar, you worked basically in groups of six, and very interesting mix at my table, because it was a very international group.
So, at my table, and keep in mind, this was 2017, so the height of the tensions in the Ukraine and Russia, I have two Ukrainians, a Russian, and a Malaysian at my table, and you're sitting there thinking, "Holy shit, how am I going to get through this?", but Brandy mentioned the vulnerability and the trust, and that's the only way you can get through it. It's not something you're going to find on your own. You can't just go sit in a dark room and think, "What's my purpose? What's …" It's a very iterative process of remembering, having these recollections, but also working with other people to try to figure out what do those experiences mean, how do they reflect on your purpose in life?
Nick Craig: So, as we talk about this, I'm sitting here, I called him up and said, "Would you come to this conference and speak?", and it was pretty clear there was a pause on the other side. I'm sure he was going, "Really? Do I want to do this?", because he's got a lot going on, and he's on the phone this morning with his boss who's trying to figure out some stuff, so he's balancing all these things. I guess, my final question for you is, is why did you decided to come here today?
Jim: Well, I find it first, ironic that a New Yorker has to help out a Boston guy, but …
Nick Craig: You're doing a pretty good job of … I don't have to worry about it right now, so yeah.
Jim: I think certainly, as I said, I was probably one of the biggest skeptics out there of this. Can you say I drank the Kool-Aid? Yeah, okay, I drank the Kool-Aid. I think it is definitely a valuable thing to know your purpose. It is something, as I start down the path of act three of my life now, it's something that definitely that will guide my decision making of what I'm going to do. It's a gift that has been given to me through ING, through Nick, and I think my sharing my experiences is just giving a little bit of that gift back to Nick to thank him, and to you to help you on your journey.
Nick Craig: Okay. Thank you.
Nick Craig: Thank you, guys.