The Manson Family. Jim Jones and Jonestown. Branch Davidians. However you slice it, cults are creepy. They lure people by offering false promises, a family-like feeling and insulation from the outside world. Cults are typically introverted, closed-off and offer harsh punishments for those that try to leave. Wait a minute – could we also be describing your financial institution?

In our banks and credit unions, we are sometimes guilty of living in a silo mentality. That is to say, many of the employees have worked there for years if not decades (not necessarily a bad thing), senior management and the board has been there even longer and we do things because “that’s the way we’ve always done them.”

Yes, in some ways, the mentality of modern banks and credit unions could be described as cult-like. Below are some signs you can look for in your financial institution that could tip the hat towards “yep … we’re a cult.”

  • Unquestioned authority at the top. Yes, leaders are supposed to lead. They are also supposed to be open to ideas and suggestions from other employees. If your bank or credit union upper management and/or board rules with an iron and unwavering fist, that’s a sign you’re heading down the road to a cult mentality.
  • A reluctance to embrace change. Banks and credit unions simply cannot afford to ignore change, both in technology and delivery channels and then the shifting demographics of consumers. If your financial institution is high-fiving itself because it recently launched audio banking, you’re nearing the borders of crazy cuckoo cult land.
  • Employees only socialize with other bank or credit union employees. It’s great to get to know your fellow employees and even those at other financial institutions. But if you begin to associate only with people that work in banking, you run the risk of blunting your mental appreciation for other professions and the valuable lessons they could impart to your bank or credit union. Don’t socialize solely with your fellow bank or credit union employees – this is yet another sign that your financial institution is devolving into a cult-like mentality.

This is not an exhaustive list. You probably have other examples of your own to add. Be cautious when spending many years working with financial institutions. It’s all too easy to become complacent in that work environment and allow yourself and your fellow employees to slip into a dangerous cult-like environment.