Image courtesy of Peter Aceto

This is Part 2 of a two-part series on my discussion with Tangerine Bank CEO, Peter Aceto.

I left off on Part 1 of my conversation with Peter Aceto with questioning why so many leaders still don’t get the importance of focusing on the customer and customer experience improvements.

In this second part, I’ll share the rest of our discussion, which revolved around change and change management, business leaders Peter admires, companies who have adopted Weology, success metrics, and more.

Let’s waste no time continuing the Q&A!

Change Management
My next question to Peter was about change and what a real transformation takes. Specifically: Early in the book, he states: “Changing the way people think about things, influencing them and seeing what comes out of it gives me great joy.” It’s a challenge that customer experience professionals face as they attempt to get executive commitment, transform the organization’s culture, and more. It’s all about changing the way people think. What advice would you give to these professionals to help them help others (especially executives) change the way they think about things? I, personally, love the concept of “Involve me, and I will understand.” That works for employees but what about executives?

Peter started by saying that he had learned a few things about change and change management since he wrote the book; many of those things came from his Chief People Officer. A few nuggets revolve around connecting with people, earning trust, eating with employees, and showing vulnerability. When they trust, they follow and question later. The luxury he has with the Tangerine business model is that he doesn’t have employees all around the nation or the globe; it’s a direct company, and as such, all of the employees are together in one location. That affords him a lot in terms of connecting with employees.

Also, change is a process; there really is a methodology to it. “Involve me” is the essence of that process. Change is about communication, but it’s not about leaders saying, “Hey, let’s have a town hall, and I’ll tell you stuff” type of communication. It’s about involving people early in the change process. And it’s also about knowing your audience. Different people are accepting of change in different ways, and different people are more receptive to different ways of communicating. They communicate, listen, and hear differently – in different time frames. Oftentimes, people have questions and need time to process and think about what was just shared with them before they can accept it. It becomes the leader’s job to bring that change along and do it as quickly as possible. It’s important to know that you can use a process that involves people – on their own terms – to make sure change happens as quickly as possible. Sounds complicated, and it is; it takes a lot of time and energy, but you want everyone bought in, committed.

The sad part is that most change initiatives don’t succeed, so they’re a waste of money. That creates a bit of skepticism: “Oh great. We’re doing this again; it failed last time.” There’s a vested interest in getting the process right. It’s a learning experience, for sure.

Admired Business Leaders
I know that Peter is a huge fan of Muhammad Ali, based on the number of times he was mentioned in Weology. So I asked, Which business leaders do you admire for their customer-centric vision? What have you learned from them?

Peter responded with three great entrepreneurs:

  1. Arkadi Kuhlman. Arkadi is the founder of ING Direct and a banking industry visionary. He hired Peter 25 years ago and took a risk in doing that, as Peter tells it. It’s a great story about how they met and why Peter was instrumental in pioneering online/direct banking and the business model that Arkadi envisioned; you’ll have to read the book. But Arkadi had a vision to differentiate from his competitors via the inside the company, i.e., the culture. To have that idea 20 years ago was truly amazing. He got it before everyone else got it. As a result, he created value not only for shareholders but also, especially, for 20 million customers in nine countries around the world.
  2. Elon Musk. He doesn’t necessarily admire Elon for his approach to culture and the employee experience – the essence of Weology, after all, is around your people – but for being a visionary and re-imagining an entire industry. (You can see the connection there; it’s just like he and Arkadi did for banking.)
  3. Tony Hsieh. It’s easy to understand his admiration of Tony. If you read Part 1, you know that Peter studied Tony’s approach to building a business. He loved that Tony took culture to the next level.
  4. Entrepreneurs. Because Peter works in a larger organization, he enjoys staying close to more entrepreneurial people, to people who think differently. Doing so creates energy and challenges his thinking – especially because most entrepreneurs are client-experience focused

Weology Adoption
I was curious to find out if Peter knew of any companies that had adopted Weology. You’ll be surprised at his response. It’s the only company he mentioned, but when you read the book, you’ll see the details behind this. The name of the company? Guinness.

Why Guinness?

Guinness was a pioneer in prioritizing culture long before culture was cool! Back in the early 1900s! They had a gym and a swimming pool for their employees. You think today’s Silicon Valley tech start-ups have perks? Guinness had a savings and loan division for staff, hospital and hospice stays were paid for, and employees received two-thirds of their salary if they were out sick. They received free medical and dental services and free prescriptions. They paid above-market salaries and guaranteed lifetime employment. And much more.

But we know that culture isn’t solely about perks. Guinness was a pioneer in putting people first. And they had no reason to do it, i.e., they were already the largest brewery in the world. They wanted employees to enjoy work and create better products. They wanted healthy, educated, and solvent employees working for them. When those things are taken care of, there’s less stress on the employee, and he can be more productive. An important lesson, no doubt.

Weology Success
Next question: How does a leader know when she’s/he’s achieved Weology? What are your/the success metrics or milestones?

The best way Peter could sum this up was by citing a tweet he sent six years ago, which said: What’s more important: employees, customers, or shareholders? Someone responded with something along the lines of: Turn employee passion into customer magic into shareholder cash. Bam!

A leader teaches, develops, empowers, and creates a purpose that employees are proud a
nd excited about it when they go home. And then customers feel that and want to do more business with your company. And then shareholders benefit.

Tangerine tracks an employee engagement metric via regular surveys, but it’s not just about a number. Tangerine’s leaders really want to understand the degree to which employees are excited, passionate, and believe they are contributing to the bigger purpose. They measure it at the employee level and at the leader level, which allows him to coach his leaders, as well.

For customers, Tangerine measures NPS and tracks J.D. Power and Associates results; the focus with these metrics is not only about customer experience improvements but also to identify, relative to competitors, if they’re exceeding expectations.

Other success metrics for Tangerine include actual referrals and a deepening of the client relationship, i.e., customers expand their business/number of products with Tangerine. These two are proof that the previous two (employee engagement and customer experience) are working.

As Peter noted, these are some very focused success metrics that reconcile to that tweet, which is the summation of Weology.

Proudest Leadership Moment
And finally, we wrapped up our conversation with this question to Peter: What is your proudest moment as a Weology leader?

Before I tell you Peter’s answer, I need to say that he was a pleasure to speak with. He is genuine and totally sincere about how much he cares for his people and his customers.

On to his answer…

Peter has had the privilege of seeing someone who started in the call center, in an entry-level position, rise to a senior-level position in his organization and become a potential successor.

He gets much joy out of seeing people grow, learn, and reach their potential; it’s like watching his  own kids. He won’t – and doesn’t want to – take credit, but he is happy to just be a part of that.

He loves to solve problems and go the extra mile. Nothing is as exciting as when customers interact with him directly on a Saturday, no less; if he can personally solve their problems by end of day, it delights them, and he loves it! It blows customers away because HE solved the problems, never mind the fact that they didn’t think it could be done by anyone within the organization on a weekend.

He’s received customer testimonials stating that finding Tangerine has changed their personal financial situations. And that makes him very proud.

Thank you, Peter, for your time! I thoroughly enjoyed meeting you and getting to know you a little better.

If you haven’t read Weology yet, it’s a must-read. You’ll be inspired, and you’ll put the book down and want the same for your organization!

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. -Benjamin Franklin