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How Decentralized Organizations Profit from a Human-Centric Approach

November 26, 2021



How Decentralized Organizations Profit from a Human-Centric Approach

How Decentralized Organizations Profit from a Human-Centric Approach

Mikael Sorensen, CEO of Handelsbanken UK, discusses the multinational bank’s decentralized management system with a human-centric culture and core beliefs that drive value creation—emphasizing customers first and then branch employees. Mikael shares how the bank empowers and encourages front-line employees to make decisions and the critical importance of trust. He also emphasizes the necessity of taking a long-term perspective.


[02:56] Why Mikael first joined Handelsbanken.

[03:44] What was Mikael’s initial experience of the bank.

[04:47] Why Handelsbanken’s values are central to their culture and business model.

[05:41] How decentralization is the organizing principle of a human-centric business.

[06:45] It takes courage for leaders to “sit on their hands”.

[08:08] What happens when people make mistakes?

[09:38] Handelsbanken’s booklet “Our Way” is experienced by employees daily across the bank.

[13:14] How branch employees are valued and trusted exclusively to nurture customer relationships.

[15:04] Handelsbanken believes that people are naturally motivated.

[15:31] How bonuses can drive the wrong behavior, especially with financial products’ risk profiles.

[16:44] The bank is driven by fulfilling customers’ dreams.

[17:46] Handelsbanken has an equitable profit-sharing model.

[19:57] How turnover decreases the efficiency of an organization.

[20:45] Why low staff turnover increases customer satisfaction.

[22:08] The bank has a flat structure and encourages generalists.

[23:41] How talent mobility allows employees to revisit customer-facing roles.

[25:27] Handelsbanken’s recruitment process takes time to ensure there is a good fit.

[27:29] What middle managers may find hard in adapting to Handelsbanken’s system.

[28:54] Not many people are natural leaders or managers—it comes from experience and being coached.

[31:03] Other organizations can benefit from Handelsbanken’s approach to trust and dare!

[32:14] Why other companies haven’t succeeded when adopting Handelsbanken’s business model.

[34:18] IMMEDIATE ACTION TIP: Think about your fundamental beliefs about human behavior--how we interact with each other, what drives us, and motivates us. Plus take the long-term view, not short-cuts, to ensure your business is around another 10 or even 100 years!


“We really do believe that most people want to do good things.”

“Fundamental belief in human nature leads to trust in and respect for the individual—that being the customer or the staff.”

“If you empower people to take their own decisions, then you have to encourage them also to use that empowerment.”

“We don’t believe that we need to motivate people. They are motivated by nature and the worst thing you can do is try and interfere with that natural motivation.”

“Everything we do is with a long-term perspective. If you start taking a short-term view or take short cuts then there’s no guarantee that you will be here 10 years from now or 100 years from now. But we want to be here.”

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