Drama helps embed cultural change at HSBC Private Bank

In a drive to become ‘the best place to work’, HSBC Private Bank in Switzerland has run 11 drama-based training workshops to help its 350 managers achieve a cultural change by role modelling and championing four key ‘behavioural principles’.

Training specialist Steps Drama designed and facilitated the workshops which were delivered in Geneva, Zurich and Luxembourg. The four behavioural principles – progressive, passionate, partners and respect – were developed by the Swiss bank as standards of behaviour which would complement the values and objectives of HSBC Group and Group Private Banking.

“With 1,500 staff, we’re the largest foreign bank in Switzerland but we’re competing for talent against established and traditional Swiss banks,” said Emma Whittaker, Head of Learning & Development at HSBC Private Bank (Suisse). “We want to improve the customer experience and be a great place to work and felt we needed to clearly define our local principles, so that our customers and colleagues know what we stand for and how we conduct our business.”

Having established its behavioural principles, the bank decided to bring them to life for its managers, using a drama-based training workshop.


“We felt drama-based training would be an effective way to embed the principles and share best practice,” said Emma Whittaker. “Steps had successfully run a previous event for HSBC Private Bank, so we asked for their help.”

Steps visited the Swiss bank’s offices and interviewed around 80 staff in order to develop realistic and appropriate drama scenarios for the workshop, which was delivered in off-site venues.

Each two-and-a-half-hour session was introduced by a senior manager from HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) – to underline the top-level support for the initiative – and it featured a short film, created by the bank, in which employees described their understanding of the four principles.

The Steps actor-facilitators ran a series of drama scenarios, depicting employees in a fictional bank. The opening scenario showed three managers in a team meeting, whose behaviour contradicted the four principles. For example, they were seen as negative, not valuing each other’s contributions and being indiscreet and disloyal.

Steps facilitated a discussion on the behaviour displayed and the delegates were able to question the three characters on their attitudes and motivations.

The Steps actor-facilitators then delivered three ‘forum scenarios’, in which the delegates interacted and provided advice and guidance to the characters, to help them overcome difficult situations.


After the drama scenarios, the delegates worked in small groups to review the implications of the four principles, both for the bank and for themselves. Each delegate was given a toolkit, including a PowerPoint presentation and guidance notes, to help them communicate and share the learning with their team. They also made written commitments to ‘stop, start or continue’ certain personal behaviours, in order to support the principles.

“The managers gained a genuine understanding of our four principles and the behaviours that underpin them,” said Patrick Vyvyan-Robinson, “Organisational Change Specialist at HSBC Private Bank (Suisse). “They’re now equipped to communicate these best practice principles to their teams.”

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