Posts tagged “societe generale”

Industries have culture; culture drives usage

This piece in the Financial Times about how anthropology is important to understand the behaviors of bankers is well-timed and relevant (if indirectly related) to the story of Société Générale’s Jerome Kerviel, the rogue trader.

For one thing that anthropology imparts is a healthy respect for the importance of micro-level incentives and political structures. And right now these issues are becoming critically important for Wall Street and the City, as the credit crunch deepens by the day.

But what is crystal clear is that if you want to understand which banks will emerge as winners from the current mess, it is no longer enough to look at their computer systems and balance sheets. Now, more than ever, investors need to understand a bank’s culture too – and the degree to which it is tribal.

We just wrapped up our second study of traders and it’s really gratifying to see this column. Traders, as a profession, have a lot of strong character traits (humor, macho/aggression, social) and much of their work is competitive and manipulative. The tools they use are pretty straight transaction machines, though, that don’t reflect the complex layers of intention that are driving everything the trader does. The only product that seems to echo or reinforce trading culture is the Bloomberg terminal which, in addition to all the data-oriented tracking and graphic capabilities, also offers an IM/email/Facebook-like platform to a closed, consistent, and co-located (The City in London, Wall Street in New York, and other neighborhoods in major financial markets) community.

There’s enormous potential for the other software tools used by these traders to similarly match their offering to the dynamic culture of their users. It’ll require these vendors to take a fresh look at how their products can really bring exceptional value to the people who make their living with them. Failure to understand and design for these folks will undoubtedly lead to more stories like the current scandal.

SocGen (as it’s known by people in the industry) in London (actual fieldwork photo!)

A new Krispy Kreme located in the heart of London’s The City (the financial district) gives away free boxes of donuts, causing a run

FT story via


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