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Bank branch talent beyond the transaction

As the banking industry shifts to meet changing customer needs, the branch workforce must expand their skills to keep pace.

Aug 5, 2022 / Consumer Banking

Whatever model banks adopt in redesigning their branches to prepare for the future, several trends are clear: Branch employees will have to move from processing transactions to engaging with customers, educating them about new technology and helping them plan their financial futures.

These trends raise several important questions. Do branch employees who have spent years cashing checks and taking deposits have the skills necessary for these new priorities? What training will they require? And in hiring new employees, what skill sets should banks be looking for? And where will they find prospective employees who have those skills?

Adding to the complexity of staff issues is the ongoing exodus of employees from many companies—the so-called “Great Resignation.” Will this trend make it harder for banks to keep highly skilled people and to find new employees with the required skill sets?

“As we reimagine the future of banking, we understand digital offerings may provide more convenience and flexibility to our customers, but there is still a need for human connections,” says Jennifer Windbeck, head of retail bank channels and operations for Capital One. “We are seeking new talent who are knowledgeable about personal finance and can assist with answering financial questions and offer banking advice where digital tools cannot.”

One issue that banks face today is that many younger customers question the need to even use a bank when they can use services provided by fintechs. David Peterson, chief innovation officer at Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based First National Bankers Bank, says what banks need in their branches are employees who can present a compelling case for using bank-provided services.

Not every employee will be able to meet the new requirements, he says, so some terminations may be needed. But many employees who came up in the old branch ways will be able to adapt to the new environment.

For all employees, the key is training. “Technology is moving fast, and there are a lot of new gadgets and systems—you have to keep your employees up to date,” says James Geeslin, vice chairman and chief consumer banking officer for Extraco Banks, a Waco, Texas, bank with $2 billion in assets. Geeslin suggests that banks provide four to six hours a month of refresher courses for branch employees because “training every once in a while will not work.”

Banks will also need to look outside their organizations for more talent. “We’ve been actively hiring skilled talent for our (Capital One Café) locations, where we have fully trained ambassadors and coaches who assist in answering financial questions,” says Windbeck.

And the best employees for branches of the future may not even come from other banks. Backgrounds to consider include retail, food service and sales—fields in which many employees have strong people skills. Peterson also likes to hire people in day care and education because they are good at engaging with people and explaining things.

“Great Resignation” as a positive

The Great Resignation may actually help banks find good people. Because a lot of employees in food service and retail are quitting their current jobs, more potential candidates are available.

But the case to move into banking should be about more than a few perks. “You also have to show them that this is an opportunity where they can help people plan their finances and improve their worlds,” Peterson says.

While banks try to attract talent from outside, they should also be working to prevent other industries from raiding them. “Banks have to fight hard to keep and attract the best people. It is tough to increase wages right now, but you may have to pay to get and keep the best people,” Geeslin says.

In seeking out new employees, bankers may need to alter some of their perceptions about what they want. “Some Gen Zers and millennials want to deal with people who look and act like they do. But that raises interesting questions. Would you hire an employee who had a lot of tattoos? A lot of millennials and Gen Z customer have tattoos and might be able to relate to someone who looks like them,” says Peterson.

Lauri Giesen is a BAI contributing writer.

Learn how bank branches are evolving for the future in this BAI Executive Report, “Branch banking continues its radical evolution.”