This is Part Two in a three-part series on First Citizens National Bank’s branch transformation. Recently, we focused on people; today I’ll talk about process changes, and next week we’ll take a look at technology.
Recently, our Advisory Services team engaged in a branch transformation project with First Citizens National Bank, a regional financial institution based in Tennessee. Led by Judy Long, FCNB’s President and COO, their calculated approach offers a case study on how to effectively introduce new processes into a traditional retail banking setting.
We’ve already heard one of Judy’s least favorite catchphrases (“I’m just a teller”). Now here’s one of ours: “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” The banking industry is transforming rapidly. We’re seeing fintech startups infiltrate numerous channels and services offered by FIs. One of the best ways to compete with these emerging threats is to embrace more nimble, efficient processes that empower your employees to focus on growing relationships rather than conducting routine transactions — in particular, optimizing existing branch processes and integrating technology into the branch experience.
Branch staff can spend a large portion of their time on non-consumer facing administrative activities. Internal cash movement, such as vault buy/sells and vault management, can consume up to 25% of branch staff time. One of the key objectives for FCNB’s branch transformation was to decrease the amount of non-customer facing activities for employees so they could focus more of their time on customers.
One of the ways our Advisory Services team addressed these challenges was by reimagining the physical space. FCNB’s flagship Green Village branch was remodeled to provide an open-concept space that eliminated the traditional teller line in favor of more intimate teller “pods.” Inside each pod we installed electronic cash recyclers (ECRs) to reduce the amount of time that employees spent counting cash.
Judy explains, “The manager at that branch, who’s been with us for 40 years, was not convinced by the new technology. She wasn’t the only one, of course. But we kept our message consistent: we’re going to do it, it’s going to make your work life better, and we’re going to work through this process together. A few months into the transformation, it was pretty amazing. She looked at me and said, ‘There are parts of this change that I could take or leave. But don’t ever take our recyclers.’”
The staff was understandably nervous about the big process change involved in relying on a machine to count cash. But as they’ve become more comfortable with the technology, they see that the ECRs free them to have conversations with their consumers, and virtually eliminate the need for vault buy/sells throughout the day. That change alone enabled FCNB to migrate the vault teller over to a window role. What used to be a full-time job has shrunk to a task that adds up to just a few hours per month.
In addition to reducing staff administrative responsibilities, FCNB integrated technology into the branch experience by incorporating self-service transactional capabilities. FCNB added an In-Lobby Teller Terminal (ILT) into the branch lobby to provide consumers with the option to conduct transactions. As discussed in the previous article, FCNB added a universal associate role and Financial Experience Specialists (FES) to actively engage with customers in the lobby and assist customers with conducting routine transactions (deposits, withdrawals, balance inquiries) at the ILTs. By removing the administrative responsibilities of a teller transaction, the staff was able to focus on developing customer relationships.
Another way we evolved the way FCNB’s staff operated was through the use of a technology bar outfitted with tablets. The bank unveiled a number of new offers, and backed them up with interactive videos and tutorials that staffers could use as a talking tool when they engaged in sales pitches. FCNB also integrated the demos into their account opening protocols, and now employees can use the tablets to sign consumers up for mobile banking, e-statements and other digital tools right on the spot. It’s streamlined and simple, and it’s encouraging the bank’s FESs to become true technology champions.
- Employee readiness is a requirement. Tutorials, training and consistency are all crucial to encouraging your employees to embrace new technology. Once they do, they’ll feel empowered to use their new skills.
- Give it time. Few among us are in a rush to change. Give your employees time to get comfortable with the new processes.
- Use improved processes to foster relationships. The changes we implemented at FCNB were driven by a desire to make the experience better and more seamless for consumers. And today that branch has the highest average services per household in their entire network.
Wondering how to make your branches run more efficiently? Let’s start a conversation.