I learned Topgrading at UBS in 2003 and have used it in all my roles since. There's no doubt in my mind I packed my team with A Players using Topgrading. Not only has Topgrading helped my career, but I'm confident it has indirectly made my employers more profitable.
- Michael A. Schweitzer, SVP, Former Global Head of Sales and Distribution
HSBC Retail Banking and Wealth Management
Career: Financial Services
In 2003 the CEO of UBS, Mark Sutton, said "We're after not just an A Player to head our wealth management group. I want the best in the world - a Super A Player." With Michael Schweitzer, he got it.
At UBS, Schweitzer learned Topgrading through 2-day training sessions, reading Topgrading books, and seeing the professionals in action - conducting interviews with candidates for top jobs.
From 2012 to 2016, he was Group Head of Sales and Distribution at HSBC RBWM in London, before he repatriated back to the U.S. at the end of 2016 to join his current employer.
People wonder if it's hard to get candidates to arrange reference calls with bosses - A Players are happy to arrange the call at the time of a job offer. After all, they know their bosses will sing their praises. Schweitzer was employed by Merrill Lynch at the time of his interview with Mark Sutton, so he arranged for Sutton to speak with former colleagues and bosses at firms where he worked prior to Merrill Lynch.
At UBS, Schweitzer used the Topgrading Truth Serum (telling candidates a final step in hiring is for them to arrange calls with former bosses), conducted half-hour phone or lunch interviews, then conducted Tandem Topgrading Interviews of finalist candidates. He required the finalists to arrange reference calls with their managers and others. Through this process, he replaced mostly C Players with mostly A Players.
At HSBC, Michael led global Sales and Distribution for the Wealth Management business comprising almost 20,000 employees across 20 countries. He estimates that on his global leadership team, he achieved 90%+ A Players hired. Instead of hiring Bs with A potential, he insisted on hiring A Players who could be highly productive right away, leading a complex business serving the needs of families and individuals across the globe.
Advice to Would-Be Topgraders
- Take time to learn the process front to back
- Don't take shortcuts. Topgrading works because you follow the process - full stop.
- Use a tandem interviewer to capture details
- Draft a formal summary of the conversation - it will help you and others who will be working with your hires
- Play back your summary to those you ultimately hire. They will appreciate the depth and attention to detail, and it will help bond them to the organization
- Explain the process to candidates. It helps put them at ease and leads to them sharing much more information than they might have otherwise.
- Require that your team applies Topgrading to all their hires
- Inspect what you expect - ask for the write-ups
- Meet with new hires and incorporate your learning from the Topgrading process