Saturday, February 20, 2010

Are your bank employees ESWS qualified?

Chris Collingsworth, an NBC sportscaster covering the Olympics, reported that Apolo Ohno trained four times a day, two hours each. Ohno, as many of you know, is a U.S. short-track speed skater. His events might take two minutes to complete. He trained eight hours a day.

Change settings. I’m in a strategic planning retreat for a community bank. Senior Management identifies the following attributes as competitive advantages:
- Superior service;
- Trusted advisor

A wise-guy consultant raises his hand and asks, “What is superior service?” Initially, blank stares. Then the branch administrator speaks up and fumbles through an answer. Same wise-guy consultant asks again, “How do you know you have superior service?” The branch administrator offers an anecdote of when a customer said nice things about the bank. No concrete answers there, the wise-guy consultant moves on to Trusted Advisor…

“What qualifies your employees to advise customers?” In my opinion, there is a gap between what senior leaders want their employees to do, and what they are capable of doing. This gap can be bridged with a training program designed to prepare your employees to be the bank you want to be, to build your brand, and execute strategy.

I was in the Navy. While there, I rode several ships and while at sea we constantly trained for war. Aside from specific job training, ships had an all encompassing training regiment teaching each enlisted sailor all facets of ship operations so they can be prepared to step into a number of roles in combat. This training culminated in the awarding of the Enlisted Surface Warfare Specialist (ESWS, pronounced EE-swas). Wearing that pin (see photo) signified you were a highly trained surface warrior… Navy elite.

So much of bank training budgets are dedicated to compliance training. Aside from this shortfall, we have not developed training programs designed to be the bank we want to be. Instead, we focus on compliance, and all other training is implemented in an ad hoc fashion.

If your bank is to be the best in service, where are the exact service standards, like those used by Ritz Carlton Hotels, and the training to achieve them? If you aspire to be a trusted advisor, what training have you implemented to advise businesses or individuals? The University of Toledo offers a Certified Business Advisor curriculum, and The American College in Bryn Mawr, PA offers the Certified Financial Planner curriculum.

I know of no banker that has either of these designations (although I am sure there are some). Yet I know plenty of banks that want to become a trusted advisor. So I ask you, do you have the training in place to elevate your employees to achieve your strategy? Are your employees ESWS qualified?

- Jeff

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