Merging Cultures Harder Than Expected?

When merging companies and teams, it’s not just dollars and cents. Human capital needs an expert touch to help any integration succeed.

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"The most valuable part of working with Lapin International was how deeply they integrated and understood our organizational culture. They expertly partnered this knowledge with each of our leaders' individual strengths and weaknesses, pushing our boundaries around these to ensure the very best outcomes for our business."

- Markos Davias, CFO FirstRand

Choosing either culture over another would cause valuable talent-loss…

When merging two beloved brands, with very different cultures, how does one retain top talent?

When First National Bank of South Africa (FNB) merged with Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) to integrate into FirstRand in 1998, it established one of Africa’s largest banks. The merging of two well-known and highly trusted brands with vastly different cultures created a complex scenario for its thousands of employees, shareholders, and customers.

FirstRand Chief Executive Officer Paul Harris understood that choosing either culture over the other would result in the loss of valuable talent, and he needed to prevent that. Harris engaged Lapin as his strategy and cultural integration consultants for the merger, and together, the Lapin consultants supported Harris and his team through the merger.

Appetite for complexity…or not?

RMB was known for its innovative thinking—challenging the status quo and always questioning the norm—which made it stand out from the crowd. When merging with the more structured and strategic FNB, there were bound to be bumps in the road. When combining analysts, economists, dealmakers, and talented solutionists from different backgrounds, internal and external trust was shaken, and futures looked unclear.

Integrating into action.

Under instruction from Harris, the Lapin team partnered with senior leaders from both banks to get a clear understanding of the values, purpose, and goals of each bank individually. Then, as part of the future planning, the team guided the combined leadership of the newly integrated bank towards a shared values system, purpose, and goals, ensuring these were cohesive and congruent with the best of what each bank’s culture brought to the table. With carefully strategized plans, the new identity – resonating with members from both teams – was rolled out to the merging entity, resonating and enlivening the new entity across all levels.

Performance quickly improved across the entire organization through innovation and meaningful cross-learning, opening doors to what the individual teams had never thought possible. The teams from both banks outperformed their previous selves, and the company managed to retain top talent, without exception. This newly formed organization became – and remains - a powerhouse within the banking industry in South Africa – and across the African continent.

What was the magic ingredient? According to Harris, in large part, the successful cultural and strategic integration work was done in partnership with Lapin International.

“When we started working with the Lapin International team, our Senior Leadership team was not aligned at all. Not only were we out of sync, but we weren’t courageous with each other to have the right conversations,”

“During my career I have worked with many consultants. Only a handful have been as impactful as the Lapin International team. The difference is with how Lapin approaches a problem and solves with a balanced approach of art and science. Unique. Life-changing. Reflective. Flexible. All words I would use to describe the Lapin team,”

- Naomi Cramer, CHRO Banner Health

Mixed Priorities and Future Strategies?

Merging Leadership Teams Does Not Make Your Brand’s Vision Stronger

When Banner Health merged with the University of Arizona Health Network, the challenge of combining hugely disparate academic and administrative leadership teams around a single, overarching purpose for the new combined entity proved almost unbearable. Senior Human Resources Executive of Banner Health, Naomi Cramer, knew she needed to act. And fast.

Banner Health partnered with Lapin International to tackle the new integration issues in a three-pronged approach:

  1. Optimize the merger and ensure the leadership team retains top talent.
  2. Craft a new purpose-driven, customer-centric strategy for Banner Health to set it on a new trajectory for growth, service standards, and efficiency.
  3. Develop a values-based leadership capacity to support the new combined leadership team in delivering on its new Purpose and Vision.

The purpose set the organization on a course to do for healthcare what few other organizations nationally were even attempting. Workstreams were created and tasked to activate the purpose statement in measurable and highly visible areas to help accelerate transformation.

The strategy work with Banner’s Senior Leadership members moved the team into a new era of collaboration and introduced a vital new focus on the customers and their needs.

The leadership development work then inspired senior leaders to understand themselves and the customer deeply so that they could deliver efficiently and compassionately.

Fearless insights to fuel foundational change.
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