From London to Times Square: A Bank’s Story
When the average American thinks of Barclays PLC, the first thing that comes to mind is more than likely the Barclays Center in Brooklyn or the Barclays Premier League (the men’s football league in England). Although these things are more impressive than what people would initially think of the other big banks, there is still a lot more to this company than meets the eye.
The Barclays communication department follows a typical corporate communications model; however, those who work there believe a certain something allows them to stand out and be successful.
“Everyone here is very straight forward,” said Mark Lane, director of corporate communications for Barclays’ equities and prime services division. “The mutual respect for one another breeds productivity and helps us all do our jobs.”
Like any other international company, Barclays is segmented into global regions. Lane works in the Americas branch for the bank and is on a team of four that reports to a supervisor who then reports to the head of the Americas division of Barclays.
“Everyone on the team is assigned certain divisions of the company,” Lane said. “Between the four of us, we cover everything going on with Barclays for the Americas.”
One struggle one might think a non-American company would face would be how to really solidify itself into American minds as a bank of choice. Barclays has taken this challenge head on.
“We’ve grown immensely since 2009,” Lane said. “When Lehman Brothers crashed, we were able to strategically fill that void and have grown into the number one non-American bank in the USA. And, in many key categories, we’re top five in U.S. markets.”
The biggest communication struggle isn’t the foreign-ness of the company but actually the difference in mentalities between Europe and the USA.
“The biggest problem we face is the perception of compensation,” Lane said. “In America, if you want a lot of money, it’s accepted if you worked hard to get it. In Europe, if you have a lot of money, people despise you. It’s a big shift in how we communicate to potential customers.”
Another area where Barclays succeeds is its internal communications. Lane pointed out that the leadership of the company is very receptive and wants to hear from its employees.
“There is huge senior-level support across the board,” Lane said. “They want to hear our feedback as the company’s employees.”
One area where Barclays truly flourishes with its employees is with its LGBT program. Lane serves as the program’s director and has become the go-to person for diversity and philanthropy affairs within the New York office.
“It really is such a great program,” Lane said. “The senior-level support I talked about earlier is phenomenal. They are really focused on making sure the company shows its support for the LGBT community.”
An example of that support was broadly shown to the world after the recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. Barclays had its entire building become a rainbow flag (the symbol of the LGBT community). For those who don’t know, the company’s headquarters is the blue building in Times Square, so you can imagine how big of a statement that was, since Times Square is the “Crossroads of the World.”
On top of the support shown immediately following the DOMA ruling, Barclays has embraced a recent trend by the financial industry in being a leader in LGBT benefits. Barclays and the financial industry as a whole have earned a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaigns Equality Indexseveral years in a row.
At the end of the day, employee relations is one of the most important jobs of public relations professionals. The employees of a company have the potential to be the greatest advocates because they know the inner workings of the company. If a company can develop brand or company loyalty with its employees, the company is more likely to succeed.
Although the financial industry may not seem to be the most glamorous of industries in the communications world, it is definitely a sector with a lot going for it. As a communications professional, you’ll always have something to do when working for a bank, even a company like Barclays. Most importantly, the company keeps its employees happy, which is something not every company can say — in any industry.