Banks need to become for flexible and respond faster. Their hierarchical, rigid, and inflexible structures stand in the way.

Compare the traditional banking structure to the flat organization of brokerage firms and other highly sales-oriented institutions. Some striking differences emerge.

Career advancement. In a bank, people aspire to a higher-level job. In a sales organization, they aspire to develop customer relationships and own a profitable and loyal book of business.

Job security. In a bank, the way to achieve job security is to have rapport with individuals at the top of the pyramid and to get along with senior management. In the brokerage firms, job security means bringing in business; the more valuable you are to the company, the more profitable your business is and the better your prospects for attention.

Ultimate career goal. In the banking industry, employees in middle management aspire to occupy the top spot; that is the definition of success. In a sales organization it is keeping one's job, excelling at it, and maximizing personal and corporate income.

Lowest-status job. In the banking industry, the worst place to be is on the line. You have to deal with the customers. If it weren't for those frisky customers, life would be much happier.

In a sales organization, staff is the worst place you can be, because you can't touch the customer and therefore cannot influence your own future, income stream, or overall value to the company.

Highest compensation. In banks, the highest person on the pyramid gets the most compensation. In a sales organization, the biggest producer can make several times as much as the top person.

Job titles and office size. In the banking business, your self-worth tends to be measured by your office size and your job title. In the brokerage business, the personal and the corporate bottom line have the most meaning.

Most important contacts. In a bank, they are inside the company-you cultivate relationships with your peers and, more important, your superiors. In a sales organization, the most important contacts are outside the company; you don't waste time golfing with a colleague if you can solicit a customer instead.

To survive and prosper, banks need to jump from traditional hierarchical organization to the flat, flexible organization that successful sales companies use.

Banks must focus outward, toward the customer. They must move to the sports-team approach of interdependence and good teamwork-and in sports, the most money goes to those who produce the most (the stars), not the coaches (the CEOs).

Without such transformation, banks will lose customer relationships and fail to win new ones.

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