Money comes and goes

"Those who come for money also go for money"

At Viisi, wages are fixed, transparent and predictable for 40 years. The founder explains why people work better without financial incentives.

Mr Van der Lubbe, you live in Zurich, but you work for a Dutch company

Financial service providers. Why not with a Swiss bank?

On the one hand, this has personal reasons: When we founded Viisi in 2010, I didn't know that Zurich would be the center of my life. However, I would also not be compatible with the corporate culture in Swiss banks. At Viisi, we focus on self-organization, transparency and long-term goals. The Swiss banks are listed and follow the quarterly targets of their shareholders. Above all, I can no longer imagine working in a classic hierarchical organization.

Is that fundamentally different in the Netherlands?

Interestingly, yes. All the big banks - ABN Amro, ING-DiBa, Volksbank, the Dutch Bank - rely on or experiment with different forms of self-organization. The Swiss banks seem to be lagging behind me by years. Even in terms of wages, a lot has changed in Holland since the financial crisis. The Dutch banks have largely abolished the bonuses - also under public pressure - and switched to fixed salaries.

Don't you pay any bonuses at Viisi?

No, because it doesn't work and is even counterproductive, as research has clearly shown. If four out of ten people get a bonus, four don't and two have to leave at the end of the year, then these are bad conditions for good teamwork. In addition, a bonus culture attracts a certain type of person. Those who come for money also go for money - and in between do a lot for money. We keep the topic simple. Anyone who comes to us for an interview will find out in advance their wages and how they will develop over the next 40 years.

That sounds more like a civil servant job in administration than a modern one

Employment relationships.

It's actually the classic model that has always existed. A simple, transparent wage model that gives the individual planning security. We have analyzed tons of salary data on how much professionals in the financial industry earn depending on their education and experience. From this we derived curves for the average salary development and based our wage model on the top quarter. We don't want people who are intrinsically motivated to be punished for their salaries, as is often the case in meaningful professions. The aim was to pay an above-average wage and, moreover, to remove any form of financial incentives. Every employee receives an annual raise regardless of the assessment of their work.

So there is no room for negotiation when it comes to wages and at the end of the year there is also none

Profit sharing?

No. Everyone is automatically ranked based on relevant work experience. Most people find the salary negotiations unfair anyway, as an extroverted man, for example, usually negotiates better than his introverted colleague, which says nothing about their contribution. We do not hire anyone outside of the predefined salary bands and we do not pay any profit-sharing.

Your system does not reward and penalize those employees who do less

conversely the high performers?

I hear this fear again and again. As if a person would only run when he has that carrot in front of his nose. With 40 employees, we have five teams that organize themselves and hire new people themselves. There is great social control. Everyone can see the level of commitment someone is working with, nobody has to impress a boss and overshadow colleagues. Differences in performance are not always a problem. If you can do more, more is required of you, but the decisive factor is the input, i.e. how someone contributes.

And when you made the wages transparent, was there no outcry?

No. Wages are only a big issue when the distribution is unfair and when management forbids employees to talk about it. With us that was ticked after a week. There was only a small outcry because everyone thought that our colleague, who once started as a secretary and then took on increasingly demanding tasks, was clearly underpaid. That was then adjusted.

Why is the wage range low for you?

With our salary model, we primarily signal: At the end of the day, everyone is important for the development of the company: the consultant who generates sales, the programmer who improves the IT infrastructure, the former Greek and Latin teacher who takes care of further training our people cares. And why should someone who takes on a leadership role earn more? So that in the end everyone wants to become boss, even those who lack the talent for it? That makes no sense. We have also abolished this incentive. We work according to the Federal Council principle: every six months someone other than Primus inter Pares takes on the coordinating role.

yourInfluence is deliberately kept small.You originally wanted to become a diplomat - then why are you?at McKinsey and

later ended up in the financial sector?

I became seriously ill during my studies and my survival rate was estimated at 20 percent. Since then, I wake up every morning with the feeling that I have received another day for free. If you've been practically dead before, you lose fear. You are already in stoppage time and have nothing more to lose - including no time in the wrong place. At McKinsey, I quickly realized that I wanted to design myself and that I had no talent for tactical behavior. So after three months I was gone again. I am interested in the financial sector because of its key role in our society. We need more social responsibility there, more sustainable thinking and more humility.

Tom van der Lubbe (51) has history, law and law in Leiden (NL), Paris and BerlinStudied political science. After a brief activity as a management consultant at McKinseyhe worked for the German financial sales organization MLPand headed the branches inSwitzerland and Holland. He is co-founder of the Dutch financial services provider Viisiand lives with his family in Zurich.

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