Capacity for change in banks

Date 6 February 2014

Banks with a capacity for self-reflection are the most capable of change, a recent DNB and AFM study on the capacity for change in banks has concluded. We interviewed the project leaders to find out more.

Projectleiders Céline Christensen (AFM) en Jildau Piena (DNB)

DNB and AFM are conducting a joint study on the capacity for change in organisations. This study of conduct and culture was launched last summer. Both supervisors interviewed five banks and insurance companies to gather relevant information. Project leaders Céline Christensen of AFM and Jildau Piena of DNB explain what they were looking for. 
What was the reason for the study?
Piena: ‘The immediate reason for the study was the far-reaching agenda for change within organisations. After all, setting change in motion isn’t something you do overnight. It demands a lot from an organisation. We want to use the study to motivate and incentivise banks to critically reflect on the culture of change in their organisation.’
What approach did you adopt?
Christensen: ‘We analyse a number of cases for change in an organisation and then discuss our findings with the organisation concerned. We use a range of different instruments for our analysis, such as surveys, interviews, and specific analysis models. We also organise challenge sessions in which supervisors and employees from various departments within the bank challenge each other and engage in dialogue about aspects they have noticed in their own organisation. Piena adds: ‘We look at the change strategy and the learning capacity of organisations with a common viewfinder. We ask: what is working? Where do problems occur and why? And ultimately, we also talk about what organisations have learned from these processes of change. All the evidence we have gathered has led us to conclude that institutions with a particular capacity for self-reflection and a willingness to continue learning have the best chances of successfully bringing about change.’ 
Do the supervisors themselves have the capacity to change?
Christensen: ‘The discussions we are holding are also encouraging us to review our own role and working methods as supervisors: we want to contribute more ideas and enter into dialogue with banks and other financial institutions, rather than simply approaching them on a purely legal and enforced compliance basis. On the other hand, this doesn’t mean that banks have a choice about whether or not to adopt the measures put forward by our study: we definitely expect them to make improvements based on our findings and recommendations.’ 
What’s next?
Piena: ‘We are now busy providing initial feedback to the institutions concerned. And we are getting lots of enthusiastic responses in return, so we will certainly be continuing with this project. We have now established a monitoring group consisting of academics, lobby groups and a supervisory board member from a bank and an insurance company respectively. They’ll be holding their first meeting in February. We will discuss our findings and together decide how to communicate them.’ Christensen: ‘We have developed a model to help us look at capacity for change, based on a literature study and discussions with change experts. The banks are not obliged to use this model; we are simply offering it as a tool to those institutions that want to gain a more accurate picture of their own processes of change.
More information
The capacity for change model is shown below, together with explanatory notes. If you would like more information or want to discuss this initiative with the supervisor, please send an e-mail to  

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