Bank Branch Staff: What’s in a Name?

March 3, 2017

United States

Bob Allexon

Glory Global

Blog

Along with the oft discussed transition of the bank branch from a transaction focus to more of a financial services advisory role, comes the challenge of renaming and redefining the traditional branch staffing roles. Terms like Teller, Head Teller, Customer or Member Service Representative, and Loan Officer simply may not properly describe these new roles and the responsibilities that they encompass.

The first and most common title to emerge is that of Universal Banker. The idea here is fairly simple. Universal Bankers [UBs] are simply trained to a higher level, empowered to resolve more issues, and tasked with meeting a greater range of client needs. While the title itself projects the image of some sort of swashbuckling banking super hero, a UB is basically a banking generalist. This stands in contrast to the traditional staffing roles, which are much more specialized.

This stands in contrast to the traditional staffing roles, which are much more specialized. After several years of experience with FIs transitioning to UBs, there are several points to be made about the position. First, it turns out that it is not one position! It is now viewed by many as more of a progressive career path with increasing levels of responsibility and expectations.

Some FIs have adopted a program that defines various UB levels of job progression. Novantas encourages its clients to adopt such an approach, “The universal banker job does not have one definition-you want to have multiple levels of these associates, providing a path for promotion and career advancement,” according to Dale Johnson, managing director.i

 Umpqua has defined four levels of universal associates, each of which require certain training requirements to be met and each with a higher degree of capability and skill set.”ii Unless you are ‘in’ to using Roman numerals, this could necessitate multiple new titles!

One attempt was to call a version of this new position Universal Banking Associate and another Universal Sales Consultant. These terms quickly become very confusing to your clientele. Also, many banks have become ‘gun shy’ about being perceived as too ‘salesy,’ especially after the well-publicized and unfortunate bank ‘sales’ controversies that came to light in the past year.

We have also learned that the Universal Banking position may not be so ‘universal.’ FMSI in its 2016 whitepaper entitled “Branch of the Future Not All That Different Than Branch of Today” identifies 3 categories of branches: the personalized experience-upscale model; The self-directed model; and the traditional branch model. Universal Bankers find their best fit in the personalized experience-upscale branch model while the traditional branch model is best served by the traditional specialist roles, at least to some extent.iii So are we just adding another set of titles to the traditional branch title list? Ugh!

Suffice to say, that some new thinking and conversation is needed to get to the right naming conventions for the modern day branch staff titles!

Some Have Tried…

One major bank has opened a number of café-style branches in several major cities. These branches have no tellers, and offer free Wi-Fi along with coffee and pastries for purchase. “Staffers called ‘coaches’ and ‘ambassadors,’ rather than teller and bankers, answer questions and demonstrate online banking or banking apps on a tablet – but they promise not to initiate any financial conversations unless the customer asks first.”iv

While avoiding the ‘in your face’ selling image, I am not sure these titles work for me. The term coach evokes images of Bobby Knight, Mike Ditka, or Urban Meyer, all red-faced and pitching a fit about a bad call.  But maybe that’s just me!

The other designation, ambassador, also leaves me confused. One of the definitions for ambassador term is simply “an authorized representative or messenger.” As such, it seems pretty descriptive of this role. However, again, it conjures-up images in my mind of the pomp and circumstance of an official State visit. Ask yourself, “What would I think if someone said to me, ‘I’m headed to the branch to meet with my banking ambassador?’”

More Work Needed!

If highlighting a problem and offering critical commentary on early resolution attempts without really offering any answers or alternatives is considered ‘bad blogging,’ I am guilty thus far. As dialog continues about what to call those people who serve the public in bank branches of all sizes and types, we should ask the proverbial Shakespearean question, ‘What’s in a name?’

My thought is this. The name simply needs to make the claim. By that I mean that the name we use for a staff member’s title should tell folks what he or she actually does. Universal Banker means something within the bank, but not necessarily to customers. The other names discussed earlier also fall somewhat short. This is a great time to start thinking about things from the customer perspective anyway. Doing so will lead to the right result in time!   

Postscript

As a manufacturer and provider of cash handling technology solutions, what is Glory’s stake in these new expanded staff roles? Regardless of what the industry settles on in terms of new names or titles for these transformed branch staff positions, they all have one thing in common. They all have a primary focus on value-added and problem-solving services over simple transaction processing.  This requires that staff be trained to a higher level to meet a wider variety of customer needs.  However, many of those who come to the branch still do so to process a transaction involving cash.  This is also often true for those branch visitors who come to discuss the value-added services. So transaction processing remains one of those needs.

Enabling Technology

It is very difficult to provide a quality customer interaction on a subject of importance if processing a simple cash transaction on the front end takes an undue amount of time, lacks focus on the customer, and can only be completed after a long wait in the queue! Staff in the transformed branch still needs to be enabled with the right tools in order to succeed, including in the processing of transactions. This is where Glory’s teller cash recyclers shine, and our technology has seen widespread adoption as an enabling technology. 

In the words of Gina Bleedorn, Executive Director of Adrenaline, “The best cross-trained employee must not only have preparation and skill, but comprehensive tools that can maximize engagement with customers…”v

In addition to delivering secure and faster cash transactions, cash recyclers simplify cash-in and out transactions for staff. Staff stress levels are lower as repetitive counting is eliminated and balancing concerns reduced. By removing these cash-handling complexities, branch staffers, regardless of their position name or title, are able to provide both an improved and expanded customer experience more effectively.

Robert Allexon is an Independent Business Analyst and Consultant. His career spans five decades in technology-based durable goods sales and marketing and he is an expert in cash automation

Sources:

i Universal Banker: The New Staffing Approach, ABA Bank marketing and Sales, Deb Stewart, November 2014, p 21.
ii Ibid.
iiiBranch of the Future Not All That Different Than Branch of Today, FMSI, January 2016. http://www.fmsi.com/fmsi-releases-new-white-paper-focusing-on-the-branch-of-the-future
ivDecaf with your deposit?, Jeanne Lee, as reprinted in MarketWatch, January 23, 2017. http://www.marketwatch.com/story/decaf-with-your-deposit-bank-branches-transform-into-cafes-more-2017-01-23
vBridging the Technology Gap: Rise of the Universal Banker, The Financial Brand, Gina Bleedorn, December 1, 2014.

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