The 2008 global financial crisis has been estimated to have resulted in losses of $4.3 trillion dollars to global banking institutions (Castells et al. 2012). The crisis placed the spotlight on banking culture (Moore 2012, 2013; Peston; 2013; Smith 2012; Salz 2013 Spicer et al. 2014; Deloitte 2013; CIPD 2013;) with claims that the causes of the crisis transpired from the ‘very heart of its [banking industry’s] culture’ (FT.com 2014). In the aftermath banks have attempted to introduce cultural change programs to encourage the right behaviours and conduct in an attempt to reduce wrongdoing and misbehaviour.
This thesis critically explores mainstream perspectives of organisational culture (Peter and Waterman 1982; Deal and Kennedy 1982) in the context of the banking industry. Mainstream perspectives on culture were encapsulated by the idea that culture can be shaped and modified by management to produce a ‘strong culture’, which would in turn increase commitment, productivity and profitability (Wiener 1988; Parker 2000; Kilmann 1985; Du Gay 1996). Thirty years on since cultural engineering’s initial introduction, practitioners and industry ‘experts’ continue to buy into the virtues of strong culture management, portraying it as a panacea to the banking industry’s problems (PwC 2016; Salz 2013; CIPD 2013).
Therefore, this thesis aims to revisit the topic of organisational culture in order to look at how the banking industry has approached culture management post-crisis. This thesis will draw on Foucault’s work on power, discipline and discourse (1977; 1978; 1980) to provide a framework that allows for an exploration into the complexity and ambiguity of culture, arguing that organisational culture is mutually constructed through contesting power relations and the interactions of organisational members. In order to interpret and analyse the empirical data, this thesis developed the concept of performance discourse. This thesis argues that performance discourse influences conduct and behaviour at a taken for granted routine level. It is predicated on competition, financialization of the individual, internalising responsibility and the intensification of work and elitism. Performance discourse goes beyond the dualism that views culture as either a thing or as a metaphor discussed in previous studies. In so doing, it helps us to make sense of why the idea that culture is still a ‘thing’ and a tool for managerial manipulation still dominates industry perceptions, fuelling the continuing,
widespread belief that culture is installed top-down.