When the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building last April killed the daughter of a Midfirst Bank employee, the company turned to Lawrence Brock, whose firm has a unique specialty: counseling traumatized bank employees.
"We've used them on several occasions," said Robin Blood, vice president and regional manager of the Oklahoma City-based thrift. "He's really there to try to stabilize the environment. The Oklahoma City bombing really affected people."
Mr. Brock, a bank marketing consultant since 1970 and a banker for 13 years before that, said he first observed several years ago that traumatic incidents in banks often weren't properly addressed with employees and that they affected productivity.
Also, from his personal experience as a banker and working for banks, he knew that management does not foster open communication when employees suffer trauma.
"I'd had an extortion attempt at my bank," he said. "I, and my friends, had been through bank robberies. Without exception, anytime there was a robbery or even a death in the family, the productivity of the bank shut down."
So Mr. Brock earned a degree in counseling, and BrockCare was born nearly two years ago. The Oklahoma City company offers financial institutions' employees and executives advice about handling traumatic situations. Most of its clients are in Oklahoma.
Mr. Brock works with three other counselors and a chaplain, who meet with employees immediately after such occurrences.
"Our focus is not on therapy but on stabilizing the work environment," said Joanne McMillen, BrockCare's president, who's also a licensed counselor.
Mr. Brock said that employees' response to violence or other upsetting incidents can affect a bank's bottom line through increased absences from the office, resignations, anxiety over on-the-job safety, and a loss of focus on work responsibilities.
"A crisis is not always as traumatic as a robbery," Ms. McMillen said. "A crisis can be a sudden death. A crisis can be downsizing. There's a lot of anxiety, and it affects productivity."
A typical response goes like this, she said: After a robbery, two counselors arrive at the institution. Ideally, they would know the employees from previous consulting. They meet with the branch manager and then conduct a group debriefing session with employees. If someone needs to work one on one, they split up, she said. BrockCare counselors give employees their pager numbers and check back with them later.
Employees who require long-term therapy are referred elsewhere.
However, BrockCare counselors may hear from employees or their family members seeking additional advice even months after an incident, the counselors said.
The nature of the work makes it unpredictable, but the counselors move fast.
"After the bombing here in Oklahoma City, I was in every branch of every client I had within 50 miles within two days, assessing how each of the employees was," Mr. Brock said. "That's just something we did automatically."
The company also helps other employees learn how to deal with someone who has had a loss when that person returns to work.
"Normal will never be normal in that office again," he said. "You can't go in and ask about that daughter."
Mr. Brock said he believes that his banking background makes financial institutions more open to his company for counseling.
"When you're talking to someone who understands your language, you're more effective," he said.
Ms. Blood, who also called in BrockCare after an armed robbery at a branch last year, said she agrees. "I think having the banking background makes a big difference," she said. "He's stood behind the teller line. I think he can associate with the fears. He really relates to the employees, and they can relate to him because they know that he's been there."