Despite its relevance to the broader economy of states, there exists little empirical information on the culture of the banking industry. Identifying the effects of business culture poses several challenges because comparing employees in one sector to those in another can be misleading. Some professions may naturally attract different kinds of people, making it tricky to separate cultural factors from individual ones. Moreover, the financial industry is broad and comprised of many different kinds of businesses and institutions, with some more focused on the consumer and others more focused on fiscal details.
Attempting to shed light on the subject, academics from the University of Zurich designed an experiment inspired by the economic theory of identity. Identity economics states that economic choices are not only based on personal taste but also on what an individual considers to be appropriate. Whether a choice is appropriate or not depends on a person’s social identity– their sexual orientation, race, religion, occupation, or where they live.
In the experiment, 128 employees from an international bank, with an average of 11.6 years of experience in the financial sector, were split into two groups. About half of the participants worked in a core business unit, like private banking, asset management, trading, or investment management. The other half worked in support units like human resources or administration. They were randomly assigned to a treatment or control group.