Now is the time for wishes. And if I were a branch manager, given all of the demands on me, here is what I would wish for:
1. Clarity of Expectations. Do you want me, your branch manager, to grow small business customers by being a trusted advisor to small business owners within a five mile radius of the branch? Why don't you tell me?
2. Clarity on Accountabilities. If you know me, you would know that I am a big fan of making branch managers responsible for the continuous improvement of their branch's income statement. All other accountability schemes you might have in place are unnecessary unless the branch manager is on a performance improvement plan. Number of net new accounts? Why do you care if the branch continuously improves its profitability? Aggregate deposit growth? What if the branch manager doesn't grow deposits at all, but replaces maturing CDs with small business deposits, and grows small-ticket business loans?
3. Empowerment. Stop calling me about waived overdraft fees. So long as I own my branch's profitability, if knowing the unique customer's situation leads me to waive their fee, so be it. Do you know the customer's situation better than me? I know a waived fee reduces my profitability. I'll find it somewhere else.
4. Support. My favorite line from Grease: "If you can't be an athlete, at least be an athletic supporter." You know those nasty e-mails I get from operations because I didn't fill a Know Your Customer line- item out correctly? You might want to pay a visit to operations and give them a lesson on how the bank makes money. I'm not saying that I shouldn't be trained how to do it right. But sometimes the self-righteousness coming out of HQ demonstrates a profound misunderstanding about who drives profits... customers, and who serves customers... me. So create a culture of empathy and wanting to support people that have customers sitting across their desk.
5. Offload Operations. Do you really want me counting vault cash, reconciling daily branch capture, and servicing the ATM? Take inventory of operational duties given to branches. Yes, there will be people other than the branch manager that can execute on them, but the manual timecard checks, continuous hounding about BSA training, printing and signing forms then rescanning because nobody can use our imaging system as intended, is a bit much. Always, always look for ways to reduce operational duties of people that are the tip of the spear between bank and customer.
6. Develop Me. I have no idea how to use the small business loan underwriting system. Our online account opening solution has no relation to how we open accounts in branches. So I can't help a customer when they call me from home wondering how to advance past a certain page. Merchant services? Nobody trained me on that. Small business cash flow management? Isn't that what you mentioned in Clarity of Expectations above? If you want me to be awesome at what you expect of me, help me get there.
Because I want to be awesome. And so too, do your branch managers.