Greene Consulting, an Atlanta financial services consulting firm, is marketing a software training program designed to help banks tear down barriers between their divisions.
SkillMark.com, which Greene began marketing to its existing customers in March, is intended to help financial services professionals identify and fill in their knowledge gaps in investments, trusts and estates, and insurance.
The program addresses bankers' increasing need to be savvy in more than one area, said senior consultant Richard Tyler.
"What we've built here is the ability for organizations to bring their people up to speed in various skill sets," Mr. Tyler said. "Five to ten years ago, most people were trained in silos. Now they've got to know something about many disciplines, and organizations need them to acquire those skill sets very rapidly."
The program grew in part from Mr. Tyler's experience as head of the trust department of Barnett Bank, which has since been acquired by the predecessor to Bank of America Corp. While he worked there Barnett consolidated the trust, private banking, and brokerage divisions, but it was hard to assess employees' knowledge of other areas within the bank, he said.
Greene has about 2,000 subscribers from eight different companies, including Firstar Corp., Mellon Financial Corp., Wachovia Corp., and Wells Fargo & Co. The company hopes to have between 25 and 50 companies using it in the next 12 to 18 months.
Wachovia, with dual headquarters in Atlanta and Winston-Salem, N.C., and its subsidiary Offitbank, of New York, are using SkillMark to increase their cross-selling.
The company's financial management team approach requires employees to have a high level of general knowledge, but "to find an individual who's well versed across four disciplines is very difficult," said Anne Surrett, a managing director at Offitbank and senior vice president and group executive at Wachovia.
Greene helps companies decide where employees need training. Employees then work through a series of diagnostic tests, so they do not waste time covering areas they already know, Mr. Tyler said.
Employees must take a test before completing a unit, so companies can gauge how much they are learning.
"There's more accountability," said Robert L. Webster, a senior vice president in the trust department of Firstar, of Milwaukee.
Unlike group training sessions, the Internet makes it possible to confirm that an employee actually learned something, Mr. Webster said. And Internet training is more efficient than alternatives such as trust school or working toward a degree in certified financial planning, which take employees out of the office for several days, he said.
"We don't have the extra bodies around in today's corporate culture," and employees dislike spending time away from family or clients for training, Mr. Webster said.
At the same time, employees "want to expand their knowledge," he said. For instance, Firstar is training private bankers in aspects of the trust business. "From a compensation standpoint, if they can refer more trust business, they're going to get paid more."