Trust involves evolving

Trust plays a key role at PwC Switzerland – so much so that it is even embedded in the company’s mission statement: “Build trust in society and solve important problems”. Stefan Räbsamen, the new Chairman of PwC Switzerland, provides details on the scope of this claim. He explains the value that is added to society and why he considers trust essential to the evolution of any relationship.

Magazine: Trust in society – September 2019

Mr Räbsamen, what does trust – or perhaps I should say confidence – mean to you personally?

Semantically, the two words are essentially synonymous but differ depending on the context in which they are used, whereas the one can engender the other. But to answer your question in general terms, I view the trust/confidence concept as meaning three things: first, standing tall in life with both feet firmly planted on the ground. Secondly, it means to have faith in one’s own abilities and those of one’s fellow human beings. And third, I equate it with the courage to question oneself – because this opens up unique opportunities for personal and interpersonal development.

What does your mission statement “build trust in society and solve important problems” mean for the Swiss public?

As auditors, we provide society with assurance that the financial statements of examined companies are complete and accurate. The public perceives this as a value contribution, and rightly so. Moreover, through our other services, we help solve problems and create economic value that ultimately accrues to the benefit of society as a whole.

It is also important to us that we contribute to society in ways that go beyond PwC’s core activities. We consider it part of our corporate responsibility to pursue a wide variety of initiatives, such as Equal-Salary certification, the reduction of our ecological footprint, the Alaya volunteer platform, support for social entrepreneurs as part of the Social Entrepreneurship Initiative and Foundation (SEIF) coaching programme, and our project partnership with “Schweizer Jugend forscht” (i.e. Swiss Youth in Science).

Stefan Räbsamen
Partner and Chairman, PwC Switzerland

In which situations is trust especially important; when is control better?

Trust is of central importance wherever growth, development and evolution are concerned, be it in people, organisations or economies. Controlling is appropriate when you want to know how quickly or successfully decisions are implemented. Controls can set signposts and guardrails. From this point of view, controlling is not a negative thing; rather, it reinforces trust.

How do managers foster trust within their teams?

There’s no cut-and-dried success formula here. It has a lot to do with personality and charisma. In a crisis situation, for example, an instructive top-down management style can create a sense of security and engender trust – because the team is glad, and relieved, that they can rely on the straightforward instructions and skills of their boss.

In daily business life, employees want to understand why they should or shouldn’t do something. That’s where an integrative management style comes into play; one in which supervisors involve employees in the decision-making process and are at their side as a coach. In this way, they tap the full potential of their people in support of the company’s success and the further development of its employees. That’s what I mean with an “unbossed company” – a company where there are coaches instead of commanders. Unfortunately, the term is often misinterpreted these days and equated with a lack of leadership.

What are the characteristics of a trustworthy company?

It has a resolute, convincing corporate mission that sends a message of reliability and predictability to its employees. It also offers those people the opportunity to develop professionally as well as personally. After all, a company has to look beyond the boardroom door in order to gain the trust of its employees. That’s the only way it can feel the pulse of the times and meet the needs of its stakeholders.

Stefan Räbsamen, thanks for your thoughts.