This is Part One in a three-part series exploring the aspects of branch transformation that were fundamental to First Citizens National Bank’s success. Today we’re focusing on people; be sure to read our posts on process and technology too.
I like to think that branch transformation is greater than the sum of its parts. As we work with financial institutions, we emphasize six key elements fundamental to transformation: People, Process, Design, Sales & Marketing, Security, and Technology.
While all are important, many times the success of branch transformation initiatives hinge upon the people. Employees are fundamental to the success of these projects, which is one of the reasons Judy Long, President and COO of First Citizens National Bank (FCNB), made it a focal point of their transformation.
There is a wide array of human capital changes that could be integrated into a transformation initiative but for the sake of brevity I’ll focus on three: evolving the branch staffing infrastructure, attracting talent, and providing resources to help your employees succeed.
- Build Your Infrastructure around Relationships, Not Transactions
Branch transformation conversations often begin with the people who will be a part of the initiative. Is the branch staffing model optimized to deliver a superior customer experience, and are the right people in place to deliver that? As financial institutions look to enhance the branch experience, branches are evolving to a staffing infrastructure that allows employees to provide a broader range of services than the traditional teller/platform model.
As a part of FCNB’s transformation, one of the key objectives for Judy was for branch staff to recognize that they are more than “just a teller—they are the bank.” A key component of FCNB’s transformation was to empower individual staff members with the ability to service all of their customers’ banking needs beyond routine transactions. As Judy states, “The role empowers them. That’s really the purpose to me, outside of efficiencies, that’s the number one issue. We’re taking that traditional transactional role, and asking our employees to dig deep to understand what it really means to be a banker: to provide advice, to be a financial advisor.”
- Attract the Right Talent
To pose a Socratic question: Why should people want to work for your institution?
Defining a strong Employee Value Proposition (EVP) will help attract talent, retain staff, and improve employee engagement. Put simply, an EVP is an institution’s branding that describes the values, benefits, and characteristics of an organization. In other words, it tells potential candidates what an institution has to offer them. The market for well-rounded candidates remains competitive, and a strong EVP will help attract active job seekers, as well as entice passive job search candidates.
First Citizens created a new branch role, Financial Experience Specialists (FES), as a component of their branch transformation. The role combines responsibilities across all aspects of the branch—sales, service, operations, and transactions. The universal role provided new opportunities for existing staff to grow with the organization through increased responsibilities. According to Judy, “This particular role we created does more to build a feeling of importance into the job description. We’re seeing that it helps with retention levels, it helps boost employee morale, it helps build them up so they feel like they really are a banker.” The new role also helped attract viable new candidates through competitive pay structure and growth opportunities within the organization.
- Provide Resources to Help Your Employees Succeed
Another key to successful transformation is to provide staff with the knowledge and motivation to succeed. First Citizens developed a comprehensive employee education program tailored to the new branch environment. The program included standard education components such as products, services, operations, and technology. But, it also went a step further to include sales skills, customer interaction protocols, customer service training, and branch choreography. The goal was to ensure that the FES had the skills and knowledge to operate effectively in the transformed branches.
In addition to the education program, First Citizens restructured the employee incentive program to provide variable incentives for the FES based on performance. The new incentives helped drive performance against the bank’s goals and offered staff the opportunity to increase their compensation. The new incentive program was a win across the board for Judy: “We’ve restructured the employee incentive program to reward sales, and now the team is able to earn a pretty phenomenal salary. We’re seeing a strong internal ROI; they’re providing better service, we’re getting more out of them, so this change is driving efficiencies and revenue – and that’s pretty amazing.”
- Rethink traditional branch roles. Judy’s team hires and trains financial experience specialists, not tellers. They worked with our team and an HR consultant to rewrite the job description and retrain current employees.
- Implement an employee readiness strategy. We had many conversations with Judy before any sort of technology solutions were even considered, to outline the ways in which her staff could be empowered by the changes.
- Incentivize the new roles. No matter how engaged your employees are, incentives are key to encouraging your salespeople. Reward their efforts to build relationships with their consumers.