Why Your Company’s Purpose Must Go Beyond Making Money

Twenty years ago Jay Shah got his first job in finance and in the course of a year, he went from selling credit cards to collecting overdue balances on those same cards. It didn’t take him long to figure out the industry had some things backward, and he wanted to be part of a company doing it the right way. 

Fast forward to 2019. Shah is now the CEO of Personal Capital, a hyper-growth financial services and technology firm who exists to bring clarity and confidence to financial lives.

I sat down with him for an interview on the Follow My Lead Podcast and as we wrapped, I thought, “I don’t know another company in the finance world this purpose-driven.”

The words purpose-driven and finance don’t seem to even go in the same sentence because of a vast majority of people think the purpose of a finance company is “making money.” While making money is incredibly important for any business, not just in finance, a purpose-driven organization connects its mission to a deeper meaning in order to align its employees and make better business decisions.

Purpose isn’t just about words on a website or hanging on a wall. Shah and Personal Capital live out their purpose-driven culture. Here’s what we can learn about purpose from them:   

The Purpose Has to Go Beyond Money

Wealth Management is a $30 trillion industry and most companies in the financial services space have always made money on profiting, in the short-term, from their clients. The financial services industry is broken because lack a focus on truly serving the consumer. And because of their size, the right-hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. Remember what happened with Wells Fargo?

Personal Capital’s purpose statement doesn’t read, “maximize shareholder value,” it reads “we bring clarity and confidence to financial lives.” That’s the point Shah proclaimed, “I wanted to focus on the long-term and being more outcome oriented. This way our clients can clearly understand the short-term decisions and the opportunity path forward to improve their personal outcomes.”

The better the organization does at making their purpose come to life for their clients, the better its own balance sheet is going to look.

Define and Celebrate Core Values

Core values are the fundamental beliefs an organization holds to be true. Unfortunately, many organizations define their core values, plaster them on their websites, and rarely look at them again. They’re so generic they could belong to an organization in any industry.

Shah, along with his 400 person workforce, defined five core values and put them in phrases that drive the behaviors of each and every employee:

  1. We get behind being upfront.
  2. We work hard to make things simple.
  3. We make all our business personal.
  4. We team up and break down any challenge.
  5. We build and uphold our legacy of trust.

They didn’t stop there, Personal Capital celebrates those who live out their core values on a daily basis. At any point, any employee can highlight another. Talented people aren’t interested in the defining of core values but rather the exercising of them.

Don’t Focus on the ROI of Being Purpose Driven

Being part of a company whose mission statement is “transforming financial lives through technology and people” is exciting. Admittedly, Shah knows that doesn’t guarantee anything, “Just because you are a purpose-driven company, doesn’t mean you will succeed. If I could have a choice between being purpose driven or profit motive or whatever else might drive you, I am going to choose purpose driven because it’s inspirational for all of us. Energy and transfer of enthusiasm that happens from our employees to our customers I don’t know the return but it really increases the odds.”

If a company in the difficult finance industry can be purpose-driven, I know yours can, and should as well.

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About the Author John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company which exists to turn managers into leaders and create healthier places to work. John was named one of LinkedIn’s 2017 Top Voices in Management & Workplace and was awarded the 2017 Readership Award by Training Industry.com. John is also the author the upcoming book Building the Best: The Proven Leadership Framework to Elevate Others to Successand host of the “Follow My Lead” Podcast, a show that transfers stories and best practices from today’s leaders to the leaders of tomorrow. You follow him on instagram @johngeades.

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