The Soft Skills of Leadership with Lito Camacho

HCLI Research
Published 21 November 2016

Credit Suisse’s Vice Chairman for Asia Pacific, Lito Camacho, shares lessons into how to improve one’s soft skills of leadership. Camacho, a lifelong banker, also spent three years working in the Philippine government so he draws from both his time in the private and public sector. Read on for why Camacho defines leaders and managers differently as well as how he ensures a high level of ethics of the employees at Credit Suisse.

Inspire the team with your vision

According to Camacho, he truly began to understand the definition of a good leader when he was working in the Philippine government as the Minister of Energy and Minister of Finance. “In senior leadership positions in government, you are given a lot of power. One may think that being in that position, there’s the opportunity to get a lot of things done.

But a leader can only be as successful as his or her subordinates.

When confronted with thousands of issues and hundreds of decisions, I realised that I could only be successful in that position if I could empower the people working with and for me,” he explains. Camacho explained that often, as a leader becomes more senior, they become more dependent on their team than even the team is on them.

The role of a leader is often not to do things himself or herself but to inspire and enable others to do what they do well. “Provide a vision and the general direction of where you want to go and then empower your team to get you all there,” says Camacho.

Non-negotiable leadership traits
  1. Ability to inspire. People have to feel that the leader is providing something that they want to follow. “Be a visionary– show the team a general direction but allow enough leeway to make mistakes and suggestions,” says Camacho. Allow employees to explore so that their output is maximised. Inspiring them means that they’ll take the extra steps to achieve your vision.
  2. Communicate well. This pertains to both explaining the vision of the company as well as listening and interacting with employees.
  3. Have empathy. “If you do not have the dedication and energy of your team — if they have not ‘bought in’ to your vision– then they will not have the right spirit. They might just go through the motions,” Camacho explains. Know, understand and feel for your team.
  4. Understand people’s strengths and weaknesses. A leader does not have to be a subject matter expert but he or she has to recognise the capabilities as well as the deficiencies of the team to optimise results. “A manager has to be as technically competent as the people they work with. You have to be an expert. However a leader has to be able to move people to perform even without the subject expertise,” explains Camacho. “A leader should drive the experts.”
Developing Next-in-Lines

At Credit Suisse, training is both formal and informal. There are many programmes for specific departments or levels as well as personalised training. “Training can also be more effective when personal case studies and personal journeys are used. This can be achieved by using internal staff as trainers and through individual mentoring. They then get a guidepost into how others have become successful leaders in the firm.” explains Camacho.

Another way to develop leaders is through mentorship and sponsorship. “Mentoring is more like coaching through personal examples. Using the value of someone else’s long years of experience to glean lessons. Sponsoring is empowering. Sponsoring is providing a potential leader with opportunities, resources and mentoring. Providing them with everything he or she might require so that they can fulfil themselves as a leader,” he says.

Camacho also explains the importance of diversity and how Credit Suisse ensures a diverse talent pool. Diversity exists both in the talent pool as well as the mind-set of the staff. “We look for the highest level of talent we need in every position and ensure that our employees embrace our value of diversity and inclusion.” he says.

Hiring Ethical People
  1. Look for physical cues.
    Hiring ethical people has to be derived from assessing candidates’ behavior, body language and track record. This can be best done through interviews from varying disciplines. For example, if hiring a private banker, the candidate can be interviewed by the direct hiring manager as well as colleagues from other disciplines such as compliance and credit risk management. These interviews can provide additional insights from different lenses or expertise.When Camacho interviews, he asks how people respond to difficult situations. For example, how did they deal with the global financial crisis in 2008 and clients who complained about investment losses. “I get down to their motivation: is it all for profit or doing the right thing for the client?” he explains.
  2. Have a robust system of validating ethics-related behaviour
    At Credit Suisse, background checks and other standard searches are done on potential candidates. “Get as many clues as you can to determine how the candidate is likely to behave going forward based on past performance,” explains Camacho.

The company culture is also important. “Companies have to provide an environment which encourages ethical behaviour. This pertains to compensation structure, performance appraisals, role modeling and disciplinary processes if there are misconducts. Apply the different tools and do the right thing hopefully yields the right people, but recognise that there will always be a mixed bag of people coming with different values,” says Camacho.

Camacho explains that the global financial crisis revealed weaknesses and gaps within the financial industry. This– and the collapse of a few major financial institutions– has led to significant regulatory changes as well as a negative public perception of the industry.

“Banking serves a critical function in any economy. It provides the fuel that moves the economic engine,” says Camacho. Organisations have had to soul search to decide how to drive a better culture and promote the ethical behavior within their organisation to recover.

How Tech is Changing the Industry

Technology and innovation have forced banks to also upgrade their services. Clients today expect services like digital banking. “Some of this is positive in that some labour has been automated. It also allows us to engage with our clients more effectively and on a timely basis” explains Camacho. “However it also exposes us to a higher level of cyber security risk. An economy could be paralysed is there is a serious attack on the banking IT system.” New fintech non-bank companies also present competitive threat to large financial organisations like Credit Suisse.

But net net, the customer benefits.

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