“Business is brutal” said a Relationship Manager in a message sent through LinkedIn, “if I didn’t lie to Credit I’d never get deals done and I wouldn’t ever reach my targets”.
I was deeply shocked by the comment because I thought my colleague knew better but, from experience, I know there are two opportunities for Relationship Managers (RM’s) to lie.
One is to their clients to cover their own service failures. Usually it means that they failed to get the correct information from the client to support an application for some kind of loan facility and then they blame Credit for the delay in or decline of the application. It’s always a case of someone being to blame and is simply a lack of integrity and responsibility on the RM’s part.
The most dangerous situation though is when the RM takes the client’s side against the bank – as happened in this particular case. Briefly, the client had requested a loan facility for some purpose that the RM didn’t think would be acceptable to Credit. So, together with the client, the RM concocted a story and requested the facility for a purpose that the bank would be more likely to prefer. On that basis, the loan facility was approved.
While it’s possible to understand the reasons why the RM should do this, in my view it’s absolutely impossible to condone the action for three main reasons;
- The most obvious being that the RM is an employee of the bank and is tasked, along with Credit, in taking care of shareholder capital and ensuring that the bank is not exposed to greater risk than it has assessed in the application process.
- If the real purpose of the loan was for some illegal, immoral or unethical purpose the bank is exposed to serious reputational risk about which it is completely unaware.
- The RM exposes herself to the risk of blackmail. Let’s be clear on this, clients don’t care about RM’s and their future, they are concerned only with getting what they want when they want it. Suppose, for example, that the client has some difficulty in repaying the loan and the bank starts to apply pressure. Is it likely that the client will tell the bank the truth to divert attention to the RM and away from himself? Is it even possible that the client may require additional loans in the future and threaten to tell the bank the truth if the RM doesn’t play ball and ensure that the new loans are approved at a favourable price?
In my view, when the RM takes the client’s side against the bank, it’s time to look for another job because the relationship with the bank has broken down and the RM has lost sight of her true purpose.
It’s not about targets, it’s about integrity and ethical behaviour and if I were a client and I found that the RM didn’t have those two traits, I’d be looking for another bank to do business with.
In short, when is it okay for a Relationship Manager to lie? Never.