Taking on a new role internally for a few months has long been a way to develop both personally and professionally at PostFinance (see infobox). Martin Steinmann and Christian Gebauer, however, opted for a different model: they swapped jobs, and did so for good with no going back. Both of them are compliance experts in management positions. Until the end of last year, Martin Steinmann, as Head of Compliance, was responsible for the independent control function ensuring compliance with legal and regulatory standards at PostFinance, whilst Christian Gebauer, as Head of the Compliance Office, was responsible for the operational implementation of these standards for PostFinance’s customers. Since the start of this year, the roles have been reversed.
Switching jobs internally: a job swap with no going back
Christian Gebauer and Martin Steinmann swapped jobs at the start of the year, and not on a temporary basis, but for good. The two compliance experts, both in management positions, explain how this came about, and tell us what it was like initially in a joint interview with them.
Which of you came up with the idea of swapping jobs?
Martin: Neither of us. My previous manager took the initiative. She initially relayed this idea to Christian’s former manager. Ultimately, though, they came to us separately to ask us what we thought of this idea. Christian and I gave the idea some thought separately and, after further joint discussions, came to the conclusion that this idea would be right for us.
How did you initially react to this idea?
Martin: The suggestion came as quite a surprise. As far as I was aware, there had never been such a change at management level before. I thought the idea was very exciting, especially in terms of agile, progressive employee development. But I was also glad that we had enough time to give it some thought.
Christian: I had similar feelings. I saw it as a challenge and an opportunity. What was unusual about the situation was that there was actually no urgent need for us to take any action, and the fact the job swap would be for an indefinite period of time. For the change to work, both of us, and indeed our managers, had to be in agreement.
What was it that ultimately prompted you to take this decision?
Martin: I was drawn most of all to the change of perspective. Transitioning from central, monitoring compliance (a 2nd-line role) into operational compliance (a 1st-line role) is an opportunity for me to gain an in-depth understanding of the impact of compliance planning on compliance implementation. Even when it comes to department and team size, the work in operational compliance is completely different. We are based in the organizational unit IT & Operations, which is home to about 1,500 employees in total, and of those 170 work in my department. A total of 32 people work in the central Compliance unit. Another major factor that prompted this move was the fact I had worked in the central Compliance unit for 20 years, and so this change represented a new challenge.
Christian: I saw an opportunity to develop in the field of compliance and to expand my knowledge in order to ultimately complete the “compliance puzzle”, all of which I could do while staying at the same company. I was able to tackle a new challenge in house, which was really stimulating for me. Over the past 10 years, I worked in operational management, a unit where the processes and the team were all chiming together very nicely, and where we were able to respond appropriately to every situation. Or, to put it another way: I was essentially in a comfort zone, and I made the conscious decision to leave it to try something new.
What are your initial takeaways from changing jobs?
Christian: It’s a new job that comes with new challenges. I’m still in the settling-in period, and I still have a lot to learn and to get to grips with a number of things. I am of course grateful that Martin and I are able to discuss these things together. I can definitely tell I’ve left my comfort zone, and I feel challenged.
Martin: It’s a challenge for me as well, and I’m starting to realize that this change is something I’ve actually wanted for a long time after years and years in the same comfort zone. For me, it feels a bit like going back to my roots: I actually worked in the same unit I’m managing now before, and used to manage the very first teams here before the organizational split that separated the Compliance unit from the operational Compliance Office.
How much do you think it helps that you know each other well from having worked together in the past?
Christian: This gives us a great deal of security as it means we always have backup. We can exchange ideas quickly and easily. At the same time, we know where there were sticking points in the past, and can take appropriate action.
Martin: It’s clearly an advantage that we know each other and the company well, and we have worked very well together in the past. This allows us to continue working together effectively even under the new circumstances.
How did you prepare for the change?
Christian: Once we’d informed our direct reports and our teams, the change was very smooth. We had a lot of coordination meetings for handing over pending tasks.
Martin: We tried to support each other as much as possible along the way and to show each other what to expect. As early as last December, for instance, we attended the leadership meetings to get a taste of what our new units would be like, and to get to know our new peers.
What did you find particularly challenging about the settling-in period?
Christian: Due to the war in Ukraine, we face particular challenges in our departments at the moment, and our work is highly demanding. This exceptional situation makes it difficult for us to form an objective idea of where we stand exactly in our new jobs. Essentially, though, it’s a bit like getting to know a new family: the pace is different and the culture is different, so you just have to get to grips with that first. Martin: We are also confronted with work-related matters we’ve never come across before. It’s important to find out how your new environment ticks, what the expectations are and how all the different processes work in the new department.
Based on your initial experiences in your new job, would you make the same decision again?
Martin: Yes, my expectations turned out to be pretty accurate. It’s not just the change of perspective I’m really pleased about, but also all the different people I’ve met and the contacts I’ve made. Needless to say, there are also aspects that are tougher. But that’s just part of the job.
Christian: I prepared myself mentally from the outset for the fact this new job would come with new challenges, and I was proven right. This is precisely why this change is an opportunity I’d seize again. It was really fortunate that all four of us, that is myself, Martin and our managers, welcomed this change.
What do you need to be able to go through with a job swap like this?
Martin: In addition to curiosity, an openness to change, a willingness to make a difference and the courage to leave one’s comfort zone, you really need to firmly believe that this is something you want to do. It’s a decision that needs to be given proper thought.
Christian: Any change in job comes with a degree of uncertainty as to whether you’ll be happy or satisfied with the new challenge. You need to be aware of the risk you are taking, and be willing to take it.
Martin: Especially given the fact that we weren’t in a position where we were unhappy with our jobs. Prior to making this sort of decision, it’s very important to reflect on whereabouts you are in your career and in life, what lies ahead, where you want to go, and how this will benefit you – perhaps from a purely personal point of view too.
Martin Steinmann, Head of the Compliance Office at PostFinance.
Christian Gebauer, Head of Compliance at PostFinance
Temporary job changes
It doesn’t have to be permanent! With temporary job changes, PostFinance gives its employees the opportunity to change their area of responsibility or organizational unit for a certain period of time. These temporary job changes are either advertised internally, or they can be initiated by those employees who are interested, or by a manager. They offer candidates a fantastic opportunity to try something new, to prove themselves (so to speak) in a new area of responsibility, and to achieve either vertical or horizontal career growth in the long term. Temporary job changes are a well-established development opportunity offered by PostFinance, and the company sees about 25 of these a year. The aim of temporary job changes is to foster the professional and personal development of employees and managerial staff at all levels. A temporary job change lasts between three and twelve months.