How a fast-growth fintech discovered the purpose it had never had – and a 20% performance uplift

A London based pioneer in foreign exchange had grown rapidly into a €1bn business. Yet some parts of the culture worked better than others. Why? The Founders knew they had achieved their extraordinary growth by being at the forefront of innovation and offering amazing customer service. And they knew the source of that innovation and service was an exceptional culture that the company had invested a lot of energy in creating. But they also knew that some individuals were far less motivated and productive than others. And that some parts of the organisational culture worked better than others. But they hadn’t been able to pinpoint the source of excellence in their people performance.

Understanding culture and the source of performance

So when they heard about the work that Contexis was doing with Cambridge on measuring the impact of purpose on human and business performance they were keen to get involved. They wanted to understand more about their culture and to identify the source of performance, so that they could target interventions to bring the average employee to the same level of excellence as the top performers.

What they learnt from the analysis was remarkable. Yes, it reflected what they knew: the scores for engagement and joy were practically off the charts. And it also told them something transformational that they didn’t know; one particular characteristic in their people fundamentally drove performance almost to the exclusion of any other and was the key source of productivity. That characteristic was engagement with purpose. Those with a high purpose score were 30% more engaged, 28% more likely to experience the company as trustworthy and 32% more likely to be clear as to the company’s strategy. Their performance was 17% higher than peers and they were a remarkable 34% less likely to leave the company. The key outtake of taking the Index was that a focus on purpose rather than engagement was likely to have a far more significant positive impact on their people’s happiness and performance. 

The purpose enigma

And yet what mystified the Founders and directors was one thing. The company didn’t have a purpose. At no point in its history had the company had the time and focus to articulate and communicate a purpose. They just lived as if they had.

And that created a problem. Particularly the newer hires had no language and no framework to understand why the organisation existed and what it sought to do in the world. That left some confused and disengaged.

It was a simple task to get the firm together in small groups to discuss and understand purpose, And to come up with words that articulated what many employees instinctively knew. The exercise gave new energy and new focus to the whole business. And The Index gave it a clear performance target and a metric to measure it against.

As the Founder and CEO commented, “without purpose, a company can only flipflop around without truly consolidated, effective effort. What Contexis has developed with its Index is a very clever way to measure the impact of Purpose on Performance, enabling companies to really motivate their teams. Contexis Index did it for us!”.

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