Over the past 20 years, banks have reduced their largest noninterest expense - personnel - by about two-thirds, increasing assets per employee from $1 million to more than $3 million. But while personnel expense has been greatly reduced, other noninterest expenses, especially information services and general computer-related items, have grown.

The good news is that this increased investment in technology can be harnessed to reduce the cost of improving the performance of the new, leaner staff. One way to make technology pay off is by using computers to let employees take self-study courses on a computer.

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