Did psychologists bring down a bank?

February 27, 2014

If you’ve read the business pages of the papers recently, you might begin to believe that people like me, with our dangerous voodoo magic, at least indirectly caused the demise of the Co-op Bank. It follows revelations at a Treasury select committee hearing that – shockingly, it would seem – some (unspecified) form of psychometric testing was used in the appointment of the now-disgraced Co-op chairman, Paul Flowers.

The press have had a field day with this, giving the impression that the selection panel were so taken with the test results that they forgot to check whether he could run a bank. Much of what was written was so ill-informed that I felt compelled to respond. Rather than reproduce the entire argument here, this is a link to an article I wrote for an HR website.

I’d previously speculated that the Flowers appointment had not involved a psychologist and that it might have helped if it had. There may or may not have been a psychologist involved; some HR professionals are trained to use psychometrics, though perhaps not always in the same depth. But, whoever was using them, like any tools, they can be used well or badly. Let’s not blame the tools.

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