Despite or thanks to its modest size of some 65 highly dedicated people, Generale Bank Tokyo had been one of the most profitable foreign banks in Japan and its expectations for development were very positive.
In this context, Generale Bank’s decision to close its Tokyo branch for strategic reasons (concentration on Europe and on the regions where its home-based customers were active) was particularly difficult to explain to the staff. How would they take it? How could they possibly accept that a unit that had been so successful thanks to their efforts was to be closed down?
Management’s objectives were quite clear if contradictory:
- To fold the branch quickly, safely and orderly, which implied the staff’s full support and cooperation.
- To make sure that every single member of the staff was fairly treated and found an attractive new job.
Mr. Nevins’ assistance in devising the system that would meet our goals was essential. We relied upon our own credibility with the staff, our own intuition and our will to be fair but all the time Mr. Nevins supported us, stimulated our imagination, and advised us most efficiently.
The focus was on communication and its timing. We made sure there were no unnecessary surprises, we worked on saying the right things, at the right time, in the right order, to the right people. The package was objective yet good and fair to all parties concerned (including the bank). The package was also firm: not one single yen has been spent in addition to what had been decided before the announcement.
Everything went smoothly. The branch was cleanly closed and replaced by a Representative office. Every staff member found a new position and the spirit among the employees was kept so good that almost everyone of them attended Generale Bank Tokyo branch’s sayonara party.
(Former) General Manager for Japan