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Millennial Advice on How to Run a Bank

Leading a community bank, especially in the last decade, requires tremendous resilience and fortitude. Managing and motivating staff, ensuring regulatory compliance and boosting revenue and assets are undoubtedly a tough job. I admire CEOs who have preserved shareholder value, while also leading their banks through one of the toughest eras of American banking history.

But now that we're mostly out of the woods, it's time for bank leaders to address three shortcomings in an industry that continues to change.

Millennials, like me, are well versed in changes in technology. From Nokia brick phones to iPhones, from cassette players to iPods, from slow, dial-up Internet to always having an instant connection to the Web, the world as we know it keeps shifting. We appreciate the never-ending innovation because we have experienced the related benefits time and time again. So as a millennial who champions change, I would like to shed light on three ways I would run your community bank differently.

Goodbye Annual Reviews

If I were a bank CEO, I would foster incremental performance improvement at not only the organizational level, but at the employee level.

How are your employees supposed to know where they stand and where they should be without frequent and focused feedback? And how are managers and executives supposed to promote the right people to lead the bank, or even set companywide goals, without measuring performance at the individual level?

Annual or biannual performance reviews are simply outdated and not effective in driving high performance. It's high time for CEOs to opt instead for weekly support sessions where employees have a chance to: discuss upcoming work with their managers, set clear and measurable goals and share what they have achieved since the last session. Netflix, Accenture, Microsoft and GE are among the companies that have already tossed out the annual review system for a more positive and results-oriented model.

Your employees need and want regular feedback rather than the awkward and daunting annual evaluations. In turn, your bank will prosper from employees' ongoing motivation to perform at a higher level.

Upgrade Customer Management Software

As a bank CEO, I would improve my company's organization of sales efforts as my second initiative. I would invest in customer relationship management software or use the software already on hand to a higher capacity. After all, banks are in business to sell their services. So it's unfortunate that so many community banks have yet to adopt CRM software, seeing as it's so readily available and affordable for banks of all sizes.

A 2014 Nucleus research study found that the average return from investing in a CRM platform, across a broad number of industries, was $8.71 for every dollar spent. And having a CRM system that integrates with the other bank application systems will not only increase sales, it will also create a much better customer experience. CRM technology will prompt employees to follow up on sales opportunities while also measuring those employees' efforts and results. The technology will also identify demographic trends, and more.

Many banks have previously attempted to implement a CRM solution, but they have failed because they lack a true sales culture. If your bank does not have a healthy and vibrant sales culture, then your CRM will just be more software collecting dust.

Put Social Media Strategy High on Agenda

As my third initiative, I would make social media a real priority. Banks need to take a hint from the numerous fintech companies that are using social media outlets to create brand awareness. On a recent winter day, I was scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed and came across three fintech advertisements. However, not once have I seen a paid Facebook advertisement from a local community bank.

This is mind-boggling considering Facebook ads are an affordable way to market to a specific group of your choosing (location, age, gender, interests) and to direct them to your website with a call-to-action button. Moreover, a staggering 47% of Americans say Facebook has the greatest impact on their purchasing and service provider decisions. You can bet the fintech groups are pursuing these users, including those individuals living in your community. Unfortunately, community banks typically aren't even using the free Facebook pages to engage with their community either.

Of course, prioritizing social media also includes creating a comprehensive policy and having the social team work closely with compliance. And with any solid social media campaign, bank marketers should emphasize focusing on consumers, small businesses and the community at hand rather than direct marketing. As for the rare product-related post, your team can always use preapproved materials.

I strongly urge banks to select a group of creative, social media-savvy employees to put your efforts into high gear. Send them to conferences and classes and allow them the freedom to create a memorable customer experience.

Natalie Brooke is vice president of client relationships for Resurgent Performance, a community bank advisory group.

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Comments (4)
While she is accurate, this concept is not new. Several years ago we used quarterly updates to our annual evaluations. In some cases, monthly sessions were required to keep people on course. Thirty years ago we recognized that one common trait of failed banks was not having current technology or under-utilization of current technology on hand.

Shareholder value should be our guiding light and we must seek the methods of service delivery that protects the shareholders' investment. While probably the majority of banks do not believe this, it can be accomplished and has been.

It is refreshing that these concepts are still being recognizing by "younger" professionals although I hope they realize the wheel is not being re-invented.

Everything in life is about the "basics". If we deviate from the basics, we increase risk. When we see a football player miss a tackle because of poor method (arm tackling) we quickly recognize the error. When we build a house on a less than stable foundation. . . .
Posted by n5554t | Tuesday, February 16 2016 at 12:11PM ET
Ms. Brooks, First Financial Bankshares, Inc. (headquartered in Abilene) has community banks in 13 Regions across Texas, and we have a Facebook presence, as well as on Twitter and Instagram. I enjoyed your article and have shared it with our Regional Bank Presidents/CEOs.
Posted by TexasPete | Tuesday, February 16 2016 at 10:47AM ET
Great points here Natalie. Thank You!

Christopher Marinac -- FIG Partners LLC
Posted by cmarinac | Tuesday, February 16 2016 at 9:27AM ET
When I first read the headline to this article, my reaction was, "Uh oh. Here we go. The author is going to think banks should give everything away," or some such thing. However, I found the article to very interesting, informing and constructive. Nicely done.
Posted by RegGuy | Monday, February 15 2016 at 11:22AM ET
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