Monday, May 21, 2012

Banking School: The ivory tower could be yours.

I am sitting at Gate 124 in Orlando waiting for my ride home from a long journey. Prior to Orlando, it was Dallas. In Dallas, I taught bank profitability and strategic planning at the ABA School of Bank Marketing Management. The school is a two year program designed to transform up-and-coming marketing professionals into well rounded bank leaders.

I have written a post on these pages regarding training programs (see Are your employees ESWS qualified?). My firm asked Are you training for the gold? in one of our quarterly newsletters. Clearly this topic remains on my mind.

Much like the Kansas City Athletics was the training ground for the New York Yankees, large banks served as the training ground for community bankers. Those big bank training programs are long gone. In strategy sessions today, senior leaders are wondering how to replace aging bankers that benefitted from those programs.

I have a few suggestions.

1.  Get your own training program. Lack of resources is the most often cited reason for community FIs not training their own. Their are several resources outside of your FI with outstanding and targeted curriculum taught by qualified instructors. National trade associations are a great resource for training your employees to be the leaders of your FI. See the ABA, ICBA, CUNA, and other trade associations to review what they offer and the relevance to your institution.

2.  Develop a curriculum by functional position. In my experience, many if not most FIs develop ad hoc training programs that reward high performing employees for a job well done by sending them to a school or conference in a nice location. But if execution of your strategy is largely in the hands of your employees, perhaps you should be serious about giving them the tools to execute that strategy. What skills do they need? How much can be accomplished in-house or via on-the-job training (OJT)? Are we teaching them to supervise, coach, communicate, and/or build a book of business. I perceive a training curriculum to be a focused mix of OJT, in-house classroom, coaching, and outside training (either industry training or academic training).

3.  Recognize high potential employees. One way to do this is to send them to a conference or school in a nice location. But another clear recognition is to prepare them to be leaders at your FI. Train them for the next level, or for another functional area. One risk we have in banking is keeping high potential employees in one functional area, developing a myopic view of your institution and our industry. Perhaps a controller or CFO should go to marketing school because they speak such a different language. In fact, there was a CFO at the ABA marketing school. Imagine that!

4. Recognize that training goes beyond the curriculum. Bankers that don't directly compete with one another openly share best practices with their colleagues. I saw it in action at the marketing school. Another benefit is developing lifelong industry contacts that you can call on for different perspectives. See the photo for a visual of the camaraderie that goes on at these schools. This not only builds morale, it can help your FI by expanding the knowledge base outside of your walls.

This may be the fourth or fifth time I have written or spoken about industry training. I intend to keep working the subject because there is not any other initiative you can undertake, in my opinion, to build a competitive advantage and to sustain your institution for future generations.

~ Jeff

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