A 109-year-old Pennsylvania trust company is trying to shake off a dusty image by helping employees gain certification as financial planners.
Nearly three dozen employees at the $352 million-asset Bryn Mawr Trust Co. are taking courses taught during work hours by professors from the nearby American College.
The training program reflects Bryn Mawr's efforts over the past three years to modernize its offerings. The bank has added tax advisory services, insurance products, a family office-and a raft of experts in each group. Now, executives say, Bryn Mawr is giving longtime employees the tools to work alongside these newer colleagues, some of whom are certified financial planners.
"We need to have people better equipped on how to grasp people's financial needs," said Robert L. Stevens, the bank's chairman.
While many financial institutions encourage employees to pursue financial planning credentials, they usually require them to do the course work on their own time, often at their own expense.
So why is Bryn Mawr clearing up schedules and footing the bill? Mr. Stevens said he is convinced that the training will improve customer service and build employees' loyalty to the bank.
The training "gives them pride. We're on the map. And it helps keep them here because we're paying for it," he said.
The courses are estate planning, income taxation, insurance, investments, retirement planning, and an exam preparation review.
The classroom environment is collegial, with lenders, trust officers, portfolio managers, and retail bankers-people who do not always interact day to day-sharing the finer points of their work.
Betty K. Taylor, a managing director in the investment division, and Victoria Quinn, a vice president in private banking, both said they are finding the lessons invaluable.
"The first course, estate planning, opened up to me all the various aspects of what clients are dealing with," Ms. Taylor said.
"It's not fair to manage a portfolio without looking at the big picture. To me, it's just been very rewarding," she added.
Ms. Quinn, who does lines of credit and other financing for Ms. Taylor's clients, said the classes are giving her a new awareness. For instance, after finding out interest on certain loans can be deducted under state tax code, she impressed a client with the helpful hint.
"They like to know that their lender is not a clerk throwing together documents," she said.