What Are the Biggest Human Resources Challenges at Banks?

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When they're not figuring out how to keep health insurance affordable, bankers are wrestling with a slew of other human-resources challenges.

Topping the list are recruitment, leadership development and employee engagement, according to executives and consultants in human resources. Banks also face tougher competition for talent, not just from each other, but from other types of businesses.

"It's not like I'm having mass groups go out to other industries, but it's definitely been on the rise," says George Myers, human resources director at Zions First National Bank in Salt Lake City. "More and more companies are seeing our bankers as viable candidates."

Those companies consider bankers to be experts in helping businesses know when they need additional funding, what funding options to consider and how to maximize the return, Myers says. "They're often a strategic partner with a business, so those businesses say, 'Why don't you come work for me full time?'"

Bankers can return the favor by raiding other industries for talent, especially as they eye replacements for senior executives who are close to retirement, says J. Timothy O'Rourke, president and CEO of Matthews, Young Management Consulting in Hillsborough, N.C.

"Even if they haven't been able to afford to have four or five people in the wings inside the bank, at least they will know people outside," says O'Rourke.

Banks also face recruiting challenges at the entry level, driven by the switch to a universal banker model, in which branch employees are expected to work as both tellers and customer service representatives. "The goal is fewer, better-trained, cross-trained employees who can do a little bit of everything in the branch," O'Rourke says.

Banks will need to adjust their recruiting strategies to target people who have strong interpersonal and math skills, but also are good at problem-solving and sales, he says. Salaries are apt to climb as branch employees do more work requiring greater skill.

"The challenge is trying to find a good mix of professionalism while also realizing that these entry banking jobs may not turn into a longer career for tellers and universal bankers," says Molly Schissler, vice president of human resources for North Shore Bank in Brookfield, Wis.

In cases where North Shore can't find enough strong candidates in a given location, it has adapted, for example, by hiring video tellers to work out of the bank's main office.

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