29 January 2024

A matter of principles: paving the way to a shared corporate culture

Commute to your workplace, have a productive day, clock out, and repeat until weekend.

It’s a simple, barebones approach to almost any job, and one that’s shared by employees across many companies worldwide. So why do the leaders and managers in so many organizations insist on having an established ‘Corporate Culture’ and invest time and resources into communicating it to employees? Is there more to this term than behavioral rules and guidelines? How do they even help the organization as a whole and the employee individually?

Corporate Culture has recently become the centerpiece of conversation at Exness. The company’s leadership has been actively drawing employees’ attention to the newly announced cultural principles and even appointed a dedicated Culture Manager, Iryna Tsepoukhova, who kindly answered our questions and shed some light on the real value of workplace culture.

Corporate culture exists regardless of whether or not the company is trying to regulate it. To manage and develop it, we need to understand the employees’ personal values and how to align them with where the company wants to be."

Iryna Tsepoukhova Culture Manager

Culture: layered and defined

One way of viewing the concept of Corporate Culture is to remove the word ‘Corporate’ from the term – just for the sake of perspective. You don’t need a Thesaurus to understand the meaning of culture itself. Spin a globe, pick a random inhabited land, and you can bet it will have ideas, customs, and social behaviors inherent to societies living there. Now replace lands with organizations, societies – with employees, place it all in a work environment, and you have the idea of corporate culture.

In a way, corporate culture is like an iceberg. No, not cold and hard, but a unique, naturally formed structure consisting of visible (above surface) and invisible (underwater) layers:

The upper, ‘visible’ layer exists in observable employee behaviors. Just like a traveler experiencing a foreign country’s culture upon visiting, you can sense the reflections of corporate culture almost the exact moment you step into the office of an organization. It’s all around: in how people greet each other, whether meetings start on time or not, who speaks first, whether it is common to wait for higher-ups, what the dress code is, even the interior office design and other small but important details that constitute a regular working day at the company.

Although the underwater layer is referred to as ‘invisible’, a more accurate description would say ‘not immediately obvious’. It consists of the company’s declared values and beliefs communicated and encouraged by the management and enacted by employees. The latter is especially important, as company culture is defined by behavior patterns shared by the majority of its members, regardless of what’s declared by its leadership.

This brings us to a key factor in understanding corporate culture: it exists regardless of whether or not the company is trying to regulate it. Therefore in order to manage and develop it, we need to understand its components – including the employees’ personal values and actions, and how to align them with where the company wants to be.

Guided by our roots

So where does Exness want to be in terms of culture? The answer lies in our very foundation as a company.

Like many modern industry leaders, Exness had humble beginnings. Before multiple offices across the world, global recognition in the sphere of trading, and hundreds of thousands of happy clients and partners, the company was a small team of dedicated people united by a goal to create something great. They shared a genuine passion for their project, complemented each other professionally, were straightforward with each other and externally, and embraced the twists and turns coming their way.

Maintaining this type of culture doesn’t come easy, but it came naturally in a small, tightly-knit community of like-minded professionals on a mission. Today, with over 2000 employees of different backgrounds, experiences, and personal beliefs, culture can get blurred, creating the need for clear, strong, and concrete definitions to guide Exnessians.

These are found in our Culture Principles:

  1. You’re in the club

    When hiring, we always aimed to find people better than us, so we could learn and grow while expanding our headcount. This means we’re a ‘professionals only’ community that takes pride in our expertise – both new and existing – as well as commitment and perseverance. It’s an exclusive club, where we work with the best and learn from the best, rewarding individuals based on merit and merit alone.

  2. We care

    Our clients and partners matter because we want to do right by them and provide them with an experience we would enjoy ourselves. Our products matter because we put time, effort, and ambition into making them the best they can be. Our teams matter because we’re in it together, and everyone deserves fair treatment. We share a strong sense of commitment and responsibility while helping each other out. ‘It’s not my job’ is not a phrase you’re likely to hear at Exness.

  3. We succeed together

    We believe that different cultures, different professions, different approaches, and different opinions can synergize to create greatness. Our differences are our strengths. We benefit from the open collaboration of people from different backgrounds. And we remove barriers to make that collaboration happen. Cross-team projects are common, and reaching out to people is encouraged regardless of their division or place in the organizational hierarchy.

  4. Honesty

    Being honest takes courage, especially if it’s difficult. But we can be direct and honest without fear of reprisal. We facilitate direct but respectful feedback, ask employees what we could do better, and explain the reasoning behind our decisions. We are honest in everything we do: how we talk to our traders, build our product, and treat each other. Most importantly, we encourage being honest with yourself.

  5. Change

    Change is our only constant. We embrace it and see it as an opportunity for professional and personal growth. We’re also aware that change can be challenging, and are always there to support each other. We take pride in our flexibility and aim to always have a backup plan.

The best thing about these is that they correspond to what Exness has been in its infancy, and they’re achievable in its current state as a market leader. All it takes is for over half of the company to believe and follow these principles.

Making it work

No matter how well-worded our cultural principles are, we can’t simply declare them and watch the company transform from within. But declaring them is surely an important step. Exness top managers have been repeatedly highlighting the topic throughout several months, with internal interviews, articles, presentations, and open talks to support the informational campaign. But raising awareness is just the first step in what will likely be a years-long journey.

Throughout this time, it’s important to keep a finger on the pulse by analyzing the de-facto company culture and finding ways to adjust it to our desired picture by changing certain processes, rules, and approaches that contradict our vision of company culture. This is my job as a Culture Manager, and where experience with HR transformation projects helps a lot.

Speaking of help, we’ve also appointed Culture Ambassadors among employees to promote and embody our unique culture. We will closely collaborate with them on various initiatives aimed at spreading our culture across all departments and locations in a proactive manner.

Even still, this isn’t a one-way process. Everyone is an agent of cultural change. People start contributing to the transformation simply by realizing what they bear responsibility for within the company – be it the quality of service, the satisfaction of a client, or the interactions within our teams. It’s not just about doing a good job for the company, your manager, or a good-looking report. It’s knowing that your professional input is crucial, caring for what you do, and taking pride in the result. You’re in the club, after all.

Consuming a plethora of information on cultural change isn’t a prerequisite to making it happen, either. Company values often stem directly from the personal values of its leadership, and Exness is no Exception. Petr Valov, Maria Fedorova, and many other Exness veterans and higher-ups live by these values, leading those who choose to follow by example. This approach to cultural transformation is contagious: once a certain percentage of employees begins acting this way, the rest will likely follow suit. After all, it’s simply comfortable to work in an environment where you can trust your colleagues in so many ways, so you want to become trustworthy yourself.

It’s in the journey

Having and maintaining all of these principles across the whole company almost sounds too good to be true – and for now, it is. But we’re honest with ourselves about not being there yet, we boldly face the changes that need to be made to get there, we care deeply about getting there, and we know we’ll get there together. Every one of us in the Exness club.

At the end of the day, our culture isn’t a list of strict rules to abide by, but a set of ideas that, when combined together and exercised on a regular basis, can have a positive effect on your time at the office. You still get to have your productive day, clock out, and repeat until weekend – but with a sense of trust, unity, and belonging that makes each day so much better.

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