When asked what’s it like to have the BBC tear your team to shreds on national television? Mike responded, “Honestly, it started off as the worst thing that’s ever happened in my life. Then, it turned into the greatest gift I’ve ever received.”
In 2007, Barclays Bank had just hired Mike Amato to lead a team of 30,000 employees across the UK. As Mike was packing his briefcase to head home for the weekend, his direct line rang. On the other end, a BBC producer informed Mike that for the past year and a half, they had embedded three undercover reporters at Barclays taking notes, audio, and video of various meetings, client interactions, and embarrassing faux pas at the bank…
…and all of it would be aired over the weeked on the BBC’s popular Whistleblower program.
The exposé was bitter medicine. It was brutal for everyone involved, but especially for those secretly filmed.
It forced Mike and Barclays to confront an uncomfortable reality: the bank had lost its way. They were so consumed with short-term financial performance that their culture, values, and integrity were falling apart. Unintentionally and over time, the bank had created a toxic environment for its customers and employees. Though the learning came through a sub-optimal channel, the BBC story ended up being one of Mike’s – and the bank’s – greatest gifts.
Drawing on over 25 years of experience in banking as well as inside intel from the exposé, Mike knew that he needed to focus on rebuilding the corporate culture, grounding the bank in new values. He shifted the bank’s focus from short-term financial output to becoming a purpose-led organization. He became obsessed with creating a culture of empowerment for his team and delighting the bank’s customers.
The nine month transformation was one of the largest in banking history:
- Overall employee engagement grew from 64% to 92%
- Output among customer facing teams grew by 244%
- Compliance scores, audit scores, and union relations ALL improved
- And net profitability outperformed targets by 125%
When asked what he learned from the scandal and transformation at Barclays Mike responded, “I learned the power of an aligned culture. The first step is to make sure that every team member knows what’s at stake and how they can contribute. The next step is to empower them to allow them to do their absolute best work. Profits flow from there.”
But what makes Mike stand out among other high-performing executives isn’t just his success – it’s how he got there.
Mike didn’t start his career as an analyst at a top consultancy or as a junior executive at a well funded startup. Mike started his career answering the phone at Washington Mutual Bank for $7.50 an hour.
Over the next 24 years through a combination of hard work, openness, honesty and refining his ability to transform himself, his teams, and eventually the bank itself, Mike rose through the ranks to become Co-President of Washington Mutual Bank’s Retail Division.
While in this role, Mike led his division through incredible growth and transformation, centered around a high performance culture. By focusing on aligning the organization’s vision, values, culture, obsessed with the customer experience, the bank was able to integrate acquisitions many times its size. During this time, the bank’s assets 8-fold to over $80 billion. Simultaneously, he consolidated 250 branches and drove the bank’s overall employee engagement score to the highest of any bank in the United States. He also used best in class customer research to drive product development which led to organic deposit growth of over $65 billion.
When asked, how does someone move from working on the floor to being one of the banking world’s most effective and consistent executives, Mike said, “It sounds counter intuitive, but you have to master the art of personal and organizational continuous transformation. A growth mindset means a wave of constant change, so you need a strong vision of where you want to go and a realistic assessment of what it will take to go there. Being willing to grow one’s skills and capability to match those required by the company today and into the future ensures you are always well positioned to lead your teams to outperform any budget or plan, no matter how large the stage. Along the way you’ll uncover intellectual and emotional strategies that allow you to continuously improve your work, your teams, and your life.”
Today, Mike is one of the country’s most sought-after executive coaches and consultants. He helps individuals and organizations exceed their own expectations by embracing the art of transformation and using it to drive vision, values, alignment, innovation, and profit.
When Mike isn’t working with the next generation of leaders, he enjoys leading wine tastings on the floor of his award winning estate winery, cooking, meditation and golfing, though he cautions that he’s not very good at golf.
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