Coping with change in the wake of the Banking Royal Commission


Vanessa Bennett

The Banking Royal Commission has brought down a set of recommendations, most of which look likely to be adopted by the Government, regardless of who wins the next federal election.

If adopted, these recommendations may force many financial services companies to introduce significant changes to their business models, within challenging time frames and this is likely to profoundly impact the mindset of financial services professionals.

Compounding this problem are other industry changes, the overall perception of the industry and the fact that all these issues must be juggled alongside the demanding day-to-day tasks of running financial services businesses.

“At a personal level, when first faced with having to deal with all that, people can feel overwhelmed,” said Next Evolution Performance (NEP) CEO, Vanessa Bennett. “It is never easy to cope with significant change, particularly when it is imposed and largely outside our control. It takes a lot of time, effort, energy and money.”

Ms Bennett said neuroscience indicates that when people feel overwhelmed, the amygdala – the part of the brain that detects danger – often overrides the rational thinking pre-frontal cortex, responsible for taking action.

“Unfortunately the amygdala hasn’t evolved to distinguish between a sabre tooth tiger and a possible threat to our business,” she said. “The amygdala asks one question all the time – ‘am I safe?’ The moment it senses danger it takes over, sometimes to such an extent that we give more energy to being stressed and anxious than to working through the challenges and problems. Productivity takes an instant and serious hit at the very time we need it most.”

When this happens, Ms Bennett said the brain needs to be immediately reset and the quickest way to do this is via diaphragmatic breathing – breathing deeply with the diaphragm, rather than taking short sharp breaths with the chest.

“After learning how to deal with short-term responses, we need to think longer term. We need to decide whether we can change anything and if so, how, what we are prepared to accept and what we simply have to remove from our lives.”

If the Banking Royal Commission recommendations are implemented, people may feel as if they are not in control of a major part of their business lives. This can wire the brain to be problem rather than solutions driven.

“If, for example, our brains are wired in such a way that we truly believe that the only successful way to run a financial services business is the way it was run prior to the Banking Royal Commission, then we will also believe that any other way will ultimately be unsuccessful,” Ms Bennett said. “The interesting thing that neuroscience tells us is that we can’t cut existing wiring in the brain, but we can create new wiring by challenging beliefs.”

Ms Bennett said the key is to question what might be possible if a belief were untrue, look for evidence that it is untrue, actively choose to create an alternate belief – in this case, that success is possible – and then act as if it is already true.

“We are certainly not suggesting it is easy, especially given the level of change facing the industry, but a changed mindset can help people better cope and begin working towards solutions, rather than feeling totally overwhelmed by the challenges.”

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