“SERVICE” – Our Last Name, Our First Priority!
“SERVICE” – Our Last Name, Our First Priority!

Part 1: Staffing

Much has been written, discussed and spent on the topic of Branch Transformation over the past few years.  Yet, with all the exploration, experimentation, and evaluation, no single formula for success has emerged. Financial institutions continue to search for answers appropriate to their individual organizations. Tech suppliers continue to say they can “show you the way”, and industry thought leaders state that Universal Bankers, which was thought to be an essential staffing strategy in support of Branch Transformation, may not be universally needed. We also now learn that the “Branch of the Future [might] Not [be] All That Different Than [the] Branch of Today.” In the midst of all this, billions of dollars are being been spent globally according to IDC, yet the results continue to be mixed.

So what has all of this meant in terms of measurable advancements? In a recent Wall Street Journal Article, Bob Meara of Celent was quoted as follows, “Most banks don’t have a clear vision of where to take the branch.” This quote was amongst various manifestations of the branch transformation concept by spokespeople for most of the nation’s largest, most prominent banks, each deeply immersed in their own version of branch transformation. Perhaps the first line of the article says it all, “Banks just can’t figure out what to do with their branches.”

As a trial and error approach and some experimentation have been prevalent in the early stages of branch transformation, financial institutions and solution suppliers are beginning to better understand and articulate related best practices. In this process, everyone has certainly learned both from the things that have worked as well as those that haven’t.  However, most of the focus tends to be on the former! Against this backdrop, we thought it might make some sense to share some discussion on what could go wrong. The idea is to balance the discussions of all the various formulas for success that may or may not lead to the desired outcome. After all, part of getting it right is to avoid doing it wrong!

We will organize our discussions in categories, starting with branch staffing. There is no branch transformation strategy that will work without the correct people supporting it!

Miscue #1: Universal Adoption of the Universal Banker Profile

One of the early staffing concepts to emerge is that of Universal Banker. The idea here is fairly simple. Universal Bankers [UBs] are simply trained to a higher level, empowered to resolve more issues, and tasked with meeting a greater range of client needs. While the title itself projects the image of some sort of swashbuckling banking super hero, a UB is basically a banking generalist. The financial industry has been talking about the need for UBs now for several years. This makes perfect sense at a time when branches are being down-sized and staffing reduced. It also resonates with the larger transition of branches from transaction centers to financial services centers.  The UB concept stands in contrast to the traditional staffing roles, which are much more specialized.

After several years of experience with FIs transitioning to UBs, several points need to be made about the position. First, it turns out that it is not one position! It is now viewed by many as more of a progressive career path with increasing levels of responsibility and expectations.

Make sure that the right expectations have been set.  While it could be that universal bankers might coexist with traditional tellers in a given branch where transaction volumes so justify, some have taken the route of staffing branches with UBs instead of tellers. Staff training or re-training is critical but taken alone, it may not be enough. Financial institutions need to understand that this change requires a different sort of individual with ‘soft skills.’ It is likely that not all of the current teller staff will be able to make this transition. It is also a sure bet that FIs will need to adjust their recruiting and hiring practices.

It is also true that UBs earn higher incomes as compared to traditional tellers. The change to UBs, therefore, must be more than nominal. They need to be more productive on a wider variety of tasks, duties and revenue production.

We have also learned that the Universal Banking position may not be so ‘universal.’ FMSI in its 2016 whitepaper entitled “Branch of the Future Not All That Different Than Branch of Today” identifies 3 categories of branches: the personalized experience-upscale model; The self-directed model; and the traditional branch model. Universal Bankers find their best fit in the personalized experience-upscale branch model while the traditional branch model is best served by the traditional specialist roles, at least to some extent.

In short, moving to a Universal Banker staffing approach is not a simple task, and it may not fill the total staffing need reflected in your branches!

Miscue #2: Educate Staff Without Equipping Them

While Universal Bankers make sense for the transformed branch in many cases and more traditional roles also make sense in others, all staff members must have the appropriate level of education and also possess the right talents for success. However, once the education mission has been completed, all staff members still need to be properly equipped in order to succeed. This is where technology enters the picture.

In the words of Gina Bleedorn, Executive Director of Adrenaline, “The best cross-trained employee must not only have preparation and skill, but comprehensive tools that can maximize engagement with customers…”

Two of the ‘must have’ tools for the UB include the tablet computer and the teller cash recycler. The tablet computer can serve as a means of monitoring self-directed banking activity by clients using assisted service kiosk devices in the branch, intervening in those transactions as required or desired. Additionally, tablet computers can bring to life sales materials as required and digital CRM data in support of a sales conversation.

Next, the Teller Cash Recycler [TCR] secures cash in ‘open plan’ branches, while also simplifying the cash in and out functions for both the UB and the traditional teller. According to Jamie Eads of Bancology, a Birmingham, Alabama-based consulting firm, “TCRs greatly enable the universal model… With TCRs, the banker can migrate from the teller workstation whenever needed, with no risk to the cash stored within.”

Miscue #3: Enable Staff Roles Without Empowering Them

Assuming for now that part of your Branch Transformation planning involves at least some commitment to Universal Bankers, recruiting, educating and equipping them is a good start. However, a fully- enabled staff can fall flat if not also empowered to do their job.

In a recent report, Deloitte Center for Financial Services confirms the importance of proper training but adds, “Retraining staff to take on new roles is not enough-empowering them to provide tailored solutions to customer problems is equally pressing.”

It is also critical that branch staff, whether UBs or cast in more traditional roles, be empowered. With increased adoption of mobile and online channels, there will be fewer and fewer face-to-face interaction opportunities. For those that remain, the stakes are much higher. In addition to supporting branch staff with full access to the customer’s data, the staff must have some level of decision-making authority to fix problems on the spot. For decisions that require higher authority beyond what the local staff can decide, quick and direct access to someone with that level of authority is essential.

Again, according to Deloitte, “Achieving one-touch resolution of every customer complaint is probably impossible for any bank today, but training and empowering branch staff enables banks to work toward that ideal.”

Consulting firm McKinsey expresses a similar view, “Front-line skills, capabilities, systems and processes are wasted investments if the front line is not empowered and motivated to use them.”

Moving forward

One of the keys to an effective branch transformation initiative is a sound, well thought-out staffing strategy. Take care to avoid these postential staffing miscues. To the extent that Universal Bankers are part of that plan, make sure that they are wisely-deployed. Also ensure that all staff members, including UBs, are well-equipped and fully-empowered to serve your customers.

Glory provides branch technologies that support branch transformation initiatives as well as the related staffing plans. Contact your Glory Account Manager to learn how our experienced team and enabling technologies such as teller cash recycling and assisted service technologies can help ensure success while helping to avoid miscues!

Source: Bob Allexon, Glory