Some may find it unusual that we would ask Nick Miller to contribute our newsletter. After all, we are competitors. Actually we call each other co-opitors – that is we are respected competitors who cooperate in certain situations when one or the other has a better resource a client can use to help their people with impactful sales conversations. Whether it’s because of time and resource availabilities or fit, it is not unusual at all for us to refer a bank to Nick and visa versa. Clarity Advantage is a highly respected firm and Nick has been a good industry friend for several decades. Add that Nick writes in an insightful manner and it was a no brainer to include him in this important issue. Enjoy this thought provoking article and thanks to Nick for adding so much to Coaching the Conversation.
Within five years, bank employees at the larger banks and, perhaps, most community banks will learn the knowledge, processes, and skills in very different ways than they do now. The future ecosystem may be only vaguely recognizable as a successor to the current models that are, still, largely based on models developed in the late 19th century. This shift will happen because of changes in the definition of work and jobs, economics, learning styles, education philosophies, intranet and Internet bandwidth, software, and client needs.
1. The Content and Extent of Training Will Change and, In Many Cases, Diminish.
Somewhere on the planet, a banker sits down at her computer to prepare for a conversation with a business-owner client who was NOT able to serve herself by using cloud software from any number of non-bank or bank service providers. After typing the client’s name into her artificial intelligence-based software, the banker waits a few minutes. Her printer then spits out an analysis of the client’s business and personal financial statements; a set of projections based on Monte Carlo simulation; an assessment of the client’s recent business and personal expenditures; an updated version of the client’s personal financial plan reflecting changes in the client’s industry, the economy, and financial markets; a recommendation for changes in the client’s business and personal banking and investments; and a call plan including recommended discussion points, questions to ask, preliminary recommendations, and the reasons for the recommendations.
During the call, as she takes notes on her tablet, the bank’s software provides suggested questions to ask, prompts, warnings, suggestions for action or thought, and updated product and service recommendations that reflect the new information received during the discussion.
When the client asks a question about a particularly difficult issue, the banker shares her tablet with her client, starts a video that explains the issue, then connects the client with live two-way video to an expert in the bank’s Business Service Center for additional discussion.
This scenario (all based on existing or close-to-market products) raises a number of questions including:
During the next five to seven years, sophisticated software will perform the work described above and more; bankers’ roles will become, increasingly, “schmooze at the front end” and “guide fulfillment at the back end.” Software will analyze clients and markets, guide conversations, recommend appropriate solutions, initiate product fulfillment, and check on client progress. Bankers will need to learn far less about many of the topics on which they are trained now. This will be true for all lines of business in commercial banks, no exceptions. The question will be – how quickly.
2. The delivery of training will shift more toward “when needed” – just in time, just enough, just for me, integrated with work tasks.
Just as many of us have become accustomed to learning what we need when we need it, frequently through apps on our phones or tablets or “short courses” on line (think Kahn Academy, or example), so the delivery of training will change. Increasingly, bank employees will follow ‘learning paths’ or ‘certification paths’ that prescribe combinations of learning, practice, and application experience. They will participate in training experienced electronically at prescribed points in those paths. These will be integrated with performance of job tasks.
While the argument about “is in-person training better” will continue, the “blend” in “blended learning” will continue to shift toward “learning remotely.” Through currently available software and computer-mediated learning, bank staff will learn, practice, and master skills ranging from completing teller transactions to sales conversations. In many cases or most cases, they will learn better and faster because of the software – less wasted time, customized remediation, accurate assessment of progress.
3. The need for coaching or facilitation will increase. That said, bank executives will become significantly more concerned about and focused on employee development, largely driven by regulatory oversight – regulators will increasingly require that banks demonstrate their employees have mastered the personal skills and software utilization skills that are required for their jobs. These requirements will drive an increase in facilitation and coaching and increased attention to assessment and certification.
I once designed and built an 80-hour self-study course for bankers through which they learned to analyze credit and structure commercial loans. [Yes… 80 hours, not 8 hours or .8 hours!] While that commitment of time is almost unthinkable today, we learned one very important lesson that will carry forward with renewed importance: Self-study for sophisticated or “more than 8 minutes of learning” modules or courses MUST be supported by either human or machine intervention at prescribed points to keep the learners moving forward and to help them process and master their learnings.
Thus, at prescribed points in their learning paths, bankers will meet individually or in small groups, remotely (in cloud-based meeting rooms), with other learners and facilitators who will hold them accountable for completing the assigned learning activities and lead them through discussions and practice activities.
First level supervisors will step up their games to coach performers in real time to apply their training and make sense of their job experience on their ways to mastering their craft.
Where human interaction isn’t needed or is too expensive, learning will be supported by additional software that will, on a prescribed schedule based in the neuroscience of learning, pose questions, problems to solve, or other activities that help move learning from short term memory to long term and from awkward beginnings to mastery.
4. Third party-provided programs will increase in importance… again
These changes will drive dramatic consolidation in the training industry. Sophisticated performance support software and learning software is complicated and expensive to develop and maintain. 85% of bankers jobs are the same, regardless of the bank they work for. Thus, it’s likely that third parties (e.g. industry organizations like the BAI, for profit or non-profit education institutions, large private software or training companies) will provide (almost like a utility) the performance support software, learning tools, and training focused on the 85% “core” elements that all bankers will need for their jobs.
Smaller companies or bank learning & development departments will likely develop, deliver, and maintain the bank-specific or problem-specific learning that addresses the remaining 15% of bankers’ jobs and specific performance improvement or initiative-based training or learning needs.
5. Learning Transferability Will Go Up
Certification will become universally expected and, just as in higher education, transferrable from institution to institution. Credit for “life experience” and “certification by one of the major providers” will transfer easily from one bank to another, thus increasing the liquidity of the banking labor market and banks’ abilities to manage variable staffing models.
How Much, How Fast?
The time frame for these changes? One can see leading tendrils of each change in industry and academic settings; the banking industry is, already, adopting performance support software and cloud-based learning for skills ranging from simple transactions to complex conversations. The direction is clear. The timing for individual banking institutions may vary from 3 years to ten years. A significant shift will be visible within five years.
Nick Miller is President of Clarity Advantage, helping banks and credit unions manage and train their associates to attract and generate more profitable relationships, faster, with owner-managed businesses, their owners, and employees. He can be reached at 978-369-4755 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.