I’m a great believer in the importance of organisational culture. Like everything in life that is truly
great, the notion that culture is important can frustrate us because we cannot touch or measure it.
But it is there and arguably it holds the key to an organisation's success because all stakeholders find
themselves identifying with it.
Nor can organisational culture be created or manufactured on demand. It reflects the combined
personalities of the people who give an organisation its life, its founders, and as it grows, increasingly,
the diversity of its employees.
Just as we can agree that culture is an intangible thing, we can also note its fragility. It can be, and
often is, easily destroyed. The biggest culprits are the purveyors of mergers and acquisitions. They
pay insufficient attention to the role culture plays in creating success, which explains why so much
M&A fails. Instead of the hoped-for merging of cultures, such corporate actions typically destroy the
essence of both businesses, often leaving customers confused as to what the new entity really
So, we observe that business growth, when achieved organically, often produces a more sustainable
organisation than its acquisition-built cousin, although the so-called affiliated model also has merit
as individual cultures are allowed room to continue evolving.
This is why a business development model focused on organic growth requires us to have a deep
understanding of our organisation. To have a proper appreciation of an organisation’s potential
requires “getting” its culture. This is because it leads us to an understanding of its inherent
innovative capability, its ability to convert this into valuable client solutions and how it can manage
associated risks. More importantly perhaps, it allows us to appreciate how much we can ask of our
people before organisational culture begins to squeak in discomfort.
But there is also another vital cultural factor to consider, that of the market or markets that we are
seeking to grow into. Apart from AUM numbers and perhaps the names of key asset owners, what
do we really know about the cultural nuances of target markets before setting out to conquer them?
Therefore, unless our growth ambitions concern our home market, we are unlikely to be best placed
to understand the challenges we will face. A better solution would be to seek help from those in the
financial market ecosystem who do.