Banks and life insurers are the chalk and cheese of organizational culture.
If you judge by stereotypes, retail bank cultures revolve around processing transactions. They are driven by demand, and many bankers are uncomfortable with asking a customer for business.
Many life insurers, on the other hand, have a strong selling focus. They feed sales personnel on healthy doses of motivation, recognition and financial incentives, which are largely foreign to the bank environment.
In reality, both bank and life insurance cultures are changing independently, but the perception of conflict lingers.
How, then, does the bancassurer manage this cultural divide to find a single formula for success?
The first and most important step is to recognize that differences exist. In the early 1990s, Brian Brown, who did much to build up TSB Banks bancassurance operation in the U.K., was quoted as saying, “Never seek the middle ground. Recognize that different cultures exist. Do not allow the bank environment to dictate a culture for sales personnel.”
Banking personnel and sales personnel are different beasts. They need to be if the bancassurer is to succeed.
A banker might be a person happiest with figures, who is methodical, focused on detail, cautious, and comfortable in hierarchical reporting lines.
An insurance sales person is typically someone who dislikes control, deals in concepts instead of figures, is extroverted, and relishes risk-taking.
Bancassurance can only work effectively through building a culture of total cooperation between the banking and sales personnel. The sales consultants rely upon good leads from the branch. Each consultant, in return, must be a team player and build good relationships with the branch. If the bank were to receive a complaint from a customer about an insurance sales consultant, it could be disastrous for internal relationships. The consultant must accept, therefore, that the client is first and foremost a bank customer. He earns a living from that relationship.