CXM had the pleasure to talk with Eliot Heilpern, the Partnership Director and Co-Founder of The Payments Business, about the global economic crisis. We have dived deep into the consequences of the recent financial crisis of 2007 and 2008, disruptions caused by the pandemic, and behaviours that emerged as necessary for both economic and societal recovery.

This was a rare opportunity to get a perspective from someone from a corporate banking background, and we couldn’t be more excited to share this conversation in the magazine.

Eliot, you have a long and rich career path, would you share with our readers more about your professional background? What is currently the focus of your work?

My professional background is in International Corporate Banking. I have worked in the UK and overseas in Global Client Account Management, which entails overseeing and ‘relationship managing’ the client in numerous different legal jurisdictions and continents with the bank, its branches, and subsidiaries. I am currently the Partnership Director and Co-Founder of The Payments Business.

In your article Ethics in the Modern Financial Services Industry, you talk about the importance of having a greater sense of respect, probity, and morality in public life, especially within the financial and commercial business environment. Do you believe we lack these concepts in the financial industry?

Yes, I do talk about the need for greater respect, probity, and morality, and these attributes are strongly missing in all aspects of today’s working environment. To a certain extent, this also applies to our personal lives, particularly within the family.

Given the recent financial crisis of 2007 and 2008, the financial community to my mind did not come out of this debacle with a great reputation. On the contrary, many of the key drivers to this crisis were the continual failures of UK and International Banks such as an absence of accurate and proper internal accountability, poor lending criteria, weak risk management tools, and inaccurate “KYC,” to name just a few issues.

Is there anything you believe leaders have learnt from the global economic crisis?

An illustration shows a person guarding itself with an umbrella against the global economic crisis.

As someone who has been in the banking industry for many years, I am not sure that we have learnt anything from the global economic crisis.

We still appear to lack the qualities and attributes needed in the financial industry to “right” what went wrong, and ensure that a similar event is not repeated on such a deep and widespread scale.   

In my view, the wider financial and commercial environment needs more creative and inspirational leaders with strong ethical characteristics. Leaders should set a true example of essential features such as trust, understanding, and appreciation of the value each member of society offers. They should also be capable of saying: “Sorry…we got it wrong!” This is something we still lack in our society.

As someone who has been in many senior positions in the banking industry, what do you think are the main challenges for leaders looking to support their employees in the current economic and social situation?

This is a good question given we have all been suffering from the “COVID-19 environment”. However, as we come out of lockdown in the UK, employers must first ask themselves the following:

  • How do we, as employers and company owners, recover our commercial activity and market share in the post-Covid world?
  • How were our company, target audience, and client base affected by the pandemic?
  • What are our business plans now to adapt to the potential new working environment that will surely come about after the pandemic?
  • How will we do things differently?

There will be some sort of ‘new normal’ following the pandemic, and the commercial and financial sectors will need to understand this phenomenon. We will all need to adapt quickly as “normality” begins to embed itself into the banking industry and wider business community. In fact, this is something that all of society – irrespective of background, business type, and industry – should be preparing for now.  

What are the top five initiatives companies will have to take to empower their employees and help them overcome these challenging times?

In the short to medium term, employers will need to undertake some basic steps to ensure the safety and confidence of employees and the continuity of the business. Below are some immediate suggestions:

  • Establish a crisis team
  • Ensure the safety of employees
  • Make contingency plans
  • Split team arrangements
  • Introduce flexible work arrangements (remote and “in the office”)
  • Enhance internal communication (new IT apps and connectivity capabilities on mobile devices, etc)

You are an advocate of alternative and proactive approaches to workplace development. What are the new skills leaders need to support general societal wellbeing and prosperity?

An illustration shows a hand from the water helping people in the boat survive in a storm.

One cannot now escape the ramifications of COVD-19. We have to view the above question from a much more creative and broader perspective.

A “New Paradigm” will need to blend the traditional approaches of the past and present to the future. I would consider this as “new thinking” from an internal and external perspective.

Firstly, under the internal perspective of the enterprise leaders will need to:

  • Consider greater diversity within the enterprise and predict business growth more openly and accurately
  • Encourage strict adherence to financial sustainability and corporate transparency
  • Focus on employee impact measurement and evaluation
  • Consider the overall social impact of the enterprise’s activity on wider society

Secondly, in support of the external approach for society’s wellbeing and prosperity; leaders, governments, and teachers will need to think carefully about the following:

  • Our youth and children: they are the future
  • The economy and business: we are all part of this environment; contribute in an honest and productive manner.
  • People and society: the greatest assets are never shown on the balance sheet. Use these through an effective and supportive approach; and appreciate the “good” that each can offer when encouraged to do so
  • Education and human aspirations: more important now than at any time before
  • Eliminate “global elitism” – to allow all members of society to have an equal chance in their chosen educational path and career

We are halfway through the year. How are your predictions for the recovery from the global economic crisis? What effects on societal aspects can we expect in the next following months?

We need to be honest with each other and recognize that 2021 is more or less over. Now is the time to look at 2022 and beyond. The remaining months of this year should involve building for the future along the lines already discussed.

Economic recovery will come, but it will be within the “new normal”, and we will need to adapt quickly. I envisage a huge development in IT apps where communications and the work environment will change beyond all recognition. However, with speeding up of IT development, this will possibly result in more government and regulatory pressures to which all manner of businesses in the public and private sectors will have to adhere. As with all societies, certain sectors will profit from this, and others will not.

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