Paper practices in institutional talk: How financial advisors impress their clients

The winners of the inaugural David B. Martin Best Paper Award are Mateusz Dolata and Gerhard Schwabe (University of Zurich) for their paper “Paper practices in institutional talk: How financial advisors impress their clients” (access via >> EUSSET DL), for the original, detailed and thoroughly grounded study of an interesting work domain and problems. 

Paper is a persistent element of financial advisory encounters, despite the increasing digitisation of the financial industry. We seek to understand the reasons behind the resilience of paper-based encounters and advisors’ resistance to change by understanding the paper’s roles in financial advisory encounters. While applying multimodal analysis to a set of field and experimental data, we point to a range of prevalent advisory practices that rely on the use of paper documents and hand-written notes. We focus on the choreography of paper and how this intersects with the participants’ institutional identities and goals. Specifically, we show how advisors’ paper-oriented actions seek to convey a positive impression about the advisor and about the bank to the client, i.e. how they engage in seemingly mundane practices to impress their clients. Paper is far more than a medium for saving and presenting information: it is an interaction resource, a semiotic resource and an institutional resource; all these aspects of paper come into play during a financial advisory encounter. The manuscript concludes with suggestions on the design of technologies that may potentially replace the paper in financial advisory encounters and assesses the likelihood of this in light of the results.

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