Sandy Dixon is CEO and founder of Sandy Dixon & Associates (SDA), one of the nation’s leading consultants on implementing the universal banker model. SDA specializes in transformational retail strategy for the banking industry and is a strategic partner of Solidus. Sandy recently discussed the hiring, training and staffing of universal bankers (or universal associates, as SDA calls them), and she disclosed several practical pointers for financial institutions planning to implement what is an inevitable staffing model.
Click here to read “Universal Associates: Hiring, Training and Staffing” with Sandy Dixon, a nationally renowned pioneer of universal associates in banks and credit unions.
Universal associates are one of the key components of a successful branch transformation. Deployment of these versatile employees means institutions can reduce staff numbers and save money. Community banks and credit unions know that the banking industry has been irreversibly changed by technology; branch traffic and transactions have declined significantly (~37%) since 2008, and customers are adopting technology at increasing rates. The more progressive organizations are building smaller branches conveniently located close to their ideal customer demographic, and universal associates are proving to be the most effective staffing model to meet the challenges created by online banking.
Finding and training ideal candidates for this new staffing model is not easy. It demands an exacting set of skills and abilities that must be determined through a new kind of recruitment process. Universal associates need to be able to create genuine personal connections, as well as take the initiative in providing guidance based on conversations with customers. They need to have the kind of personality that wants to improve the financial awareness of their clients while managing all their in-branch needs (with a few highly specialized exceptions) from beginning to end.
Imagine walking into a branch as a customer and having all of your pressing needs attended to by a single person. You would leave the branch satisfied and content, having had a pleasant, fulfilling experience with all issues closed. Satisfied customers are more loyal to brands that give them what they need, and consequently are more inclined to entrust that organization with greater wallet share. This is an important metric for financial institutions to consider when selecting the most efficient and beneficial staffing model.
During the hiring process, interviewers need to ask questions that can coax out and identify the candidate’s core values and relevant life experience. The ability to relate to customers’ needs during engagement is crucial if the implementation of universal associates is to succeed.
The universal associate model is most successfully deployed when the branch is designed specifically to facilitate the types of activities these individuals will engage in. Branches should be designed with floor plans that promote openness and movement. Universal associates are greeters as well as problem solvers. They roam the sales floor with the intention of assisting people, but they also require a workspace or tool of some kind.
Dialogue towers (teller pods) are the most practical physical destination for universal associates, as they expedite cash and check transactions and allow them to help customers with online activities. Cash recyclers can store money securely and accept, count, and dispense cash at far higher speeds and more accurately than human beings. These streamlined cash handling processes impact everyone and standardize processes holistically not just in one branch, but across the whole network.