A decade on from the global financial crisis, banks’ ‘weak link’ is middle management, a conference heard today.  Drawing on analysis of its own global investigations work, magic circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has identified ‘middle management’ as a key vulnerability for the sector.

Freshfields partner Emma Rachmaninov related instances where middle management ‘didn’t have the expertise’ to spot a problem, or were ‘possibly the only person in the room’ who could, but had a vested interest in a problem not being identified.

Fellow partner Christopher Robinson said ‘strong personalities’ with an ‘unhealthy dominance’ were a common factor identified by the firm’s investigations.

‘You need strong personalities,’ Robinson said, but businesses needed a culture where others could speak up. Strong personalities should be appraised on their ability to accept feedback. Middle management, he noted, did not benefit from the independent questioning that good non-executives provided at board level.

A culture where ‘whistleblowing’ was seen as a ‘really massive action’ that ‘risked retaliation’ added to problems at this level, associate Holly Insley added.

Freshfields presented its findings at City & Financial Global’s Fourth Annual Culture and Conduct Forum.