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Three essentials for bank-at-work programs


It goes without saying that retail banking has many moving parts and Bank-at-Work programs are no exception. From target strategy to sales protocols and from results tracking to offer fulfillment, successful program implementation requires that banks maintain a comprehensive structure around their Bank-at-Work initiatives.

But within that program structure, three things stand out because without them you’ll just be spinning your wheels. They are: partnerships, value proposition and sales execution. The formula goes like this: partnerships get you in front of company decision makers; value proposition gets you in front of employees; and sales execution gets you incremental revenue. Sounds pretty simple, but the reality is very few programs actually focus on these key essentials, which is the root cause of why many retail Bank-at-Work initiatives run aground and get shelved.

Partnerships. Why are partnerships so important? It’s a function of the bifurcated bank-at-work sales process. One part of the process is introducing the program to company decision makers (who provide access to employees), while the other part is selling to employees (who generate incremental revenue). While most Bank-at-Work programs are branch-based – in that branch teams help with onsite execution and new business is booked back to a branch – expecting branch teams to effectively manage both parts of the process is unworkable on multiple levels.

First of all, branch teams aren’t trained to sell to companies – commercial relationship managers (RMs) are. If banks aren’t cross-selling existing customers, their retail sales teams are left with “cold calling” on prospects, which is a hit-or-miss proposition at best. The cold calling process inevitably leads branch teams to seek out companies that are easier to sell into, like the publicly accessible retail stores in and around their offices. But dropping-off Bank-at-Work flyers at a grocery store down the block isn’t targeted selling; it’s just rolling the dice hoping you’ll get lucky.

Beyond the fact that introducing new products and services to companies is in the commercial RM wheelhouse, RMs have credibility with clients, which improves the odds of success when making joint calls with the retail sales team. Additional benefits of partnering with the commercial team include deepening the bank’s relationship with important clients, reducing costs with a built-in pipeline of targeted prospects to sell to and creating efficiencies with a coordinated “one bank” calling process.

To build partner support for Bank-at-Work cross-sell, we suggest having retail bank leadership walk commercial RMs through the program structure to demonstrate the bank’s commitment to consistent implementation. Program structure should include a clearly defined sales process with protocols around referral generation and tracking of results. To formalize the partnership, banks should consider including Bank-at-Work referrals in commercial RM compensation plans.

Value proposition. The ultimate objective of Bank-at-Work is to become a part of the client’s employee benefits package and achieving this will secure ongoing access to employees. To get the job done, best-in-class programs focus their programs around cultivating the client’s Human Resources (HR) staff by providing a benefits offering that addresses both employer and employee needs.

Many banks believe that price discounts are the primary benefit and we still see a number of Bank-at-Work programs promoting free checking as the centerpiece of their offering. The reality is that discounts and cash incentives do not address the needs of employers and employees in the most relevant way.

To understand current workplace needs, banks should look to research that indicates many companies are realizing a loss in productivity as a direct result of employee financial stress. Nearly one in four (24%) employees reported that issues with personal finances had been a distraction at work and 58% of employers report financial stress contributes to employee absencesand productivity loss.

Best-in-class banks have used research to design initiatives focused around employee financial wellness, offers that include onsite financial education workshops and dedicated worksite teams for advice and planning. Coupled with differentiated pricing, employee financial wellness is something HR managers can put their name behind. It’s also a value proposition banks can count on to generate incremental revenue as group workshop events provide the opportunity to convert attendees into appointments where bankers answer questions, uncover needs and provide tailored solutions.

Sales execution. The third and final Bank-at-wWork program essential is sales execution, the structural element that garners new customers and expands existing relationships for the bank. Executing Bank-at-Work onsite events shouldn’t be a hit-or-miss activity, but they often are. For consistent results, banks should create tools and processes to help ensure their sales teams are successful. To that end, we recommend providing Bank-at-Work teams with a detailed sales handbook, a step-by-step how-to kit for onsite execution that includes a sales conversation guide with adaptable dialogue cues for conducting effective group events and converting these into face-to-face meetings with employees. For example, the guide should break down the face-to-face sales conversion into sequences such as: building rapport; opening the meeting; uncovering needs; making the value case; handling objections; and closing the deal.

To further ensure solid sales execution, we recommend that sales teams practice their pitch. Managers should develop a list of objections with dynamic responses and conduct training sessions to role play the sales conversation. Have your Bank-at-Work teams refine their presentation skills by conducting onsite financial education workshops with in-house groups to gain real-time experience and also get direct feedback on presentation content and delivery. Workshop attendees could be surveyed to gauge their interest level and attendant feedback can be used to coach the Bank-at-Work teams on improving message delivery and audience engagement.

Finally, it’s important to understand that the three Bank-at-Work essentials are interdependent elements for successful program implementation, meaning that programs with weak value propositions won’t generate much partner support, never mind new client deals. At the end of the day, best practice Bank-at-Work programs focus on helping clients succeed vs. trying to sell them more.

Mr. Corrigan is a consultant at Austin, Tex.-based Peak Performance Consulting Group, which specializes in community and retail banking strategies. He can be reached at [email protected].