Recruiting and retaining talented employees has become an urgent responsibility for bankers, as Joel Berg writes in a recent article for American Banker Magazine. Not only are bankers' skills easily transferable to other industries, many top candidates worry about reports that the banking industry is shrinking through ongoing job cuts and news coverage highlighting the bad behavior of a minority of bankers. It's easy for them to conclude that banking is a field that is becoming irrelevant and should be avoided or abandoned as a career choice.

Moreover, it's difficult to find candidates who possess the skills needed for universal bankers. Strong candidates need to have interpersonal, problem-solving and sales skills, and a skills and knowledge gap is opening up as Baby Boomers leave the workforce. Concurrently, banks are experiencing increasing demand for employees with knowledge of cutting-edge technology and for staffers with compliance expertise. Filling these gaps is a high hurdle for banks at both the recruiting and training and development level.

Finding people with the right skills to be bankers of the future is only half the battle. Banks will succeed in attracting good candidates only if they can make a competitive offer and display strong company culture.

The challenge of creating prudent and effective compensation plans in a new banking era cannot be underestimated. For as long as there have been incentive compensation plans, there have been individuals who seek to exploit those plans to enrich themselves. Anticipating the actions of those individuals comes with the territory. Leaders must create compensation plans that reward people who achieve their goals without unintentionally encouraging risky, wrong-headed or unethical behavior. Banks have long navigated this issue; now additional regulatory scrutiny has put them under even more pressure to strike the right balance.

Bankers must also create a business culture with which both employees and customers will want to be associated. The banking industry desperately needs an image makeover. Individual companies should be working to transform themselves with lean, modern business models that receive public recognition for contributing to the benefit of consumers, businesses and communities. But repairing the industry's tarnished reputation will take time.

It is certainly a challenge to create a corporate banking culture that is defined by its ability to deliver valuable products and services to customers, and to build a workforce that displays the highest standards of job excellence and ethics. But these efforts will always be well rewarded.

Noma Bruton is the chief human resources officer of Pacific Mercantile Bank in Costa Mesa, Calif. She has over 20 years of banking experience and writes the Sagacity HR blog. Follow her on Twitter at @SagacityHR