What bank employees think of their CEOs

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What are Gupta, McKay and Blankfein doing to get their troops onside where the likes of Stumpf, Moynihan and Gulliver lag behind? And at what point does a poor approval rate from your employees spell danger?

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This edition of Euromoney is full of important data, backed up by insightful analysis, not least in our Data Review of the Year section.

The rankings (enlarged below) are a little more frivolous. But given we were compiling it and writing this commentary a few days before Christmas, a bit of frivolity seemed in order.

The scores reflect the CEO approval ratings of the leaders of 20 big global banks, as voted by readers of Glassdoor – a website on which employees can share information about the company they work for.

Given that, more often than not, people tend to share information on Glassdoor when the comments about a company are negative, the first thing to notice is that that the approval ratings as a whole for CEOs are remarkably high. Every current CEO on the list has the approval of at least two-thirds of their employees. 

That seems surprising: maybe those constant town halls are working. And perhaps distance works: when Euromoney speaks to senior bankers, we’d say fewer than half of them usually have a good word to say about their CEO when the PR departments aren’t listening. We imagine that most of the voters on Glassdoor are a little further down the corporate pecking order. 

What about the winners and losers? Let’s begin with a big well done to Piyush Gupta, who is doing a fine job as CEO of DBS. That’s clearly (over-) reflected in his 98% approval rating among staff. Then again, we’re aware that Singaporeans tend to have a rather deferential attitude towards those in positions of authority. 

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Source for all: Glassdoor

So perhaps the overall plaudits should go to the CEO of Canada’s RBC, David McKay? RBC announced a record annual profit of more than C$10 billion in December. He’s clearly doing something right. But he’s only been in the post since August 2014, so his score could reflect something of a honeymoon period. And he’s thus far accrued fewer than 100 votes. 

So guess what? That makes Goldman Sachs the de facto winner. Lloyd Blankfein, after almost a decade as chairman and CEO, still has a remarkable staff approval rating of 95%. All Goldman employees will be delighted that he seems to be making a recovery from illness. Apparently he recently interviewed Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour at an internal event at the bank’s New York headquarters. Lloyd famously had a 'make-under’ to look a little less Wall Street after the financial crisis hit. It’s that sort of touch that clearly appeals to the troops. 

One person who might not be congratulating Blankfein is JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon. Jamie is Wall Street’s leader – surely he should be leading everything, including this ranking? Maybe his communications team could set up a twitter Q&A called #AskJPM_Employees, to find out why his rating at 87% is not closer to 100%? Or perhaps he should relocate to Singapore?

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Dimon also lags behind Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman. His 91% rating could take a hit if the 1,200 FICC division employees about to lose their jobs decide to give him a new rating before they are shown the door. 

Euromoney feels obliged to point out that winning a big Euromoney Award for Excellence seems to coincide with a marked improvement in CEO rating. Take Citi, our best global bank for 2015. At the beginning of 2014 CEO Mike Corbat’s rating was just 70%. Now it’s 82%.

Consider Gorman, whose firm was our best global investment bank in 2015, and whose rating has shot up from 80% at the end of 2014. UBS was best global bank in 2014; at the start of that year, CEO Sergio Ermotti’s approval rating was just 73%. And there’s Lloyds Banking Group, which won our best bank transformation award in 2015: CEO Antonio Horta-Osorio’s rating has shot up from less than 70% in July 2014 to 81% at the end of the year. 

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Those are the winners. What about those lower down the rankings? It’s a surprise to see Wells Fargo’s John Stumpf so low, given his bank’s success since the crisis. And are HSBC’s staff having a crisis of confidence in their CEO Stuart Gulliver

A rating of below 70% spells danger. Anshu Jain, Peter Sands and Antony Jenkins had slipped to 65%, 63% and 60% respectively by the time they left Deutsche Bank, Standard Chartered and Barclays. Their successors are clearly in a honeymoon period. 

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And a final word for Martin Blessing. The Commerzbank CEO will step down next year after eight tough years at the helm. He brings up the rear in our table with an approval rating of 67%. But, it should be noted, his rating at the start of 2014 was below 10%. So at least he’s going out on a (relative) high!

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