Lack of Noble Purpose: The Root Cause Behind TD Bank & Wells Fargo Customer Deception

It’s easy to identify organizations that lack a Noble Purpose.

Stories inside the walls of Wells Fargo and TD Bank reveal the depths of customer deception and how an emphasis on sales and numbers can steer an organization in a certain direction.

Let’s look at the TD Bank group scandal and see what happens when an organization lacks Noble Purpose.  

After CBC (Canada’s national broadcasting news network) reported TD employees being pressured to make sales goals, hundreds of TD employees came forward describing “incredible pressure” from managers to push products and services onto clients to meet “unrealistic” sales goals.  

In an employee tell-all – almost identical to Wells Fargo – TD employees reveal what happens when leaders put profit before purpose.

Jumpstart Your Noble Purpose

A profit focus never wins

The true purpose of an organization is to serve customers. Profit is the result of doing it better than your competition.  

As Peter Drucker famously said, “Profit is not the purpose of business; it is the test of its validity.”

To suggest profit is not the sole purpose of a business seems counterintuitive, perhaps even heretical.  

But we’ve seen time and again what happens when profit alone becomes the organizational North Star.  

Customers are reduced to nothing more than sales targets. Unethical behavior follows, and the long-term result is less profit, not more.

Wells Fargo and TD Bank are classic examples.  

TD employees, desperate to reach their sales targets for fear of being fired, said they were forced to lie to customers.  

Employees wrote on the CBC site, saying, there was “zero focus on ethics.”

Both TD and Wells are suffering a loss of public trust, as customers are looking elsewhere.  The fallout will be felt for years.

Lack of purpose is a widespread issue

This problem is not limited to financial services.  

Employees of auto giants Volkswagen and GM compromised safety and environmental regulations to reach their quotas. The resulting fines, revenue losses and erosion of market share set these businesses back decades.

TD’s vision statement – as proclaimed on their website – is “To Be the Better Bank.”  

The question is, better than what?  

Answers are revealed later in the document. TD’s goal is “Be a Top 10 Bank in North America”.  

Their strategy is to “produce long-term profitable growth.”  There is no mention about the impact they wish to have on clients.

Compare this against organizations that declare a more noble purpose.  

The difference a noble purpose makes

Imagine a leadership team who says, “Our purpose is to improve the lives of our customers.”  

Who would you rather do business with?  

A firm that believes you, the customer, are merely a cash register? Or an organization that believes you are the reason they exist?

Who would you rather work for – leaders who treat you like an expendable asset or leaders who believe you are the lifeblood of their firm?

You don’t have to imagine what happens when organizations have a noble purpose.

We’ve seen it in action.  CEO’s Cheryl Bachelder at Popeye’s, Bob Chapman at Barry Wehmiller, and Melissa Reiff at the Container Store achieved consistent profits because they put customers and employees first.

I see this happen with our clients every day. Employee morale rises, customer satisfaction increases, and market share grows.

Ironic isn’t it?  Putting purpose before profit actually produces more money.

It’s no surprise the TD culture became toxic and unethical.

Purpose drives profit

When sales targets become your guiding purpose, it’s an every man for himself rat race to the bottom.

But it’s not too late.  

If TD Bank were my client, I’d recommend they reclaim the nobility of banking.

We could start to restore customer and employee trust by unpacking what happened and establish a new purpose going forward.  

The mission would no longer be revenue focused, it would be client focused.  New metrics would ensure leaders promote the right behaviors.

TD, Wells and other who are sure to follow are learning the lesson the hard way.

Purpose drives profit, it never works the other way around.

Take a deeper look inside your organization? Does it follow a Noble Purpose?

Jumpstart Your Noble Purpose