Key benefits of this approach are staffing flexibility and
improved productivity and efficiency. According to a recent
study from Novantas Inc., the New York-based financial industry research and consulting company, 20 percent of small
branches (having less than 4,000 teller transactions per month)
have already combined the teller and platform positions into
a single universal role. These banks have seen as much as a 50
percent productivity improvement in handling teller transactions.
So, how are banks implementing the shift to the universal
banker model? Are there any emerging best practices? Here is
What does a universal banker do?
Extraco Bank N.A. (assets $1.2 billion), Temple, Texas, made
the switch to a universal-banker staffing model eight years ago.
During that time, the bank has seen declines in teller transactions
of 10 percent to 12 percent each year. Twenty percent of deposits
are now made through image-enabled ATMs, only three years
after the bank introduced them. Mobile deposits are continuing to drive transaction numbers down. Extraco’s deposits and
loans are up, but customers are mostly using alternate delivery
channels for these services.
“Using universal bankers in our branches has allowed us to
address this change quite well,” says James Geeslin, vice chairman and chief consumer banking officer. He is also CEO of
Universal bankers are working all over the lobby, greeting
every customer within five seconds after they walk through the
door. “The associate that greets the customer owns the customer,”
says Geeslin. If the customer needs to do a teller transaction, the
associate will take him or her to a teller pod to complete that
task. If the customer has a simple service need, that associate
will address it at a teller pod. If the customer is in the branch to
open a new account or some other task that requires a greater
degree of privacy, then that same associate will take him or her
into an office environment.
Associates are able to take unsecured loan applications (which
are scored instantly and then closed); they can open a business
checking account; and, they can start an insurance application.
More than 95 percent of business requests are completed by the
person who meets the customer when he or she walks into the
branch. Only investment and mortgage requests or business
loans are handed off by the first associate to a second employee.
Extraco bankers wear communications headsets in order to
orchestrate movement within the branch. If one banker needs
to leave the floor with a customer for a complex request, he or
she will call in another banker to fill in. Pneumatic tubes from
the drive-through go into the lobby, allowing bankers to move
easily from dealing with customers in the lobby to dealing with
customers at the drive-through via a two-way video screen. The
only assigned role in the branch supports a dedicated commercial
window on the teller-line. Managers do what other universals do,
working with customers the majority of their time. Managers’
other responsibilities are training, coaching and counseling staff.
Umpqua Bank (assets $21.9 billion), Roseburg, Ore., has
been using a modified universal banker model since 1995. “We
are always asking ourselves, how do we take the things that
people are coming in for today—whether an individual or a
business—and quickly take care of that problem or interest?”
says Lani Hayward, executive vice president of creative strategies.
“We’ve shifted our approach over the years to address changing
needs. Today our bankers can address all service or transaction
needs, open basic accounts and get things started on all fronts,
whether it’s a consumer loan, mortgage or business banking
request. Then, they will pull in people who know more.”
In the Umpqua model, bankers in all branches are assigned
to one area of the branch for one or two weeks at a time. They
may be on the teller line for two weeks, and then move to new
accounts for the next two. If volume spikes in one area or another,
associates can easily move to cover demand. “Using this approach
allows us to keep the associate’s skills sharp,” says Hayward. “It’s
A view of a universal
banker with a
customer at Extraco
Bank, Temple, Texas.
Note the teller pod
in the middle of the
lobby containing a
teller cash recycler.
Are There Fewer Customers in Your Lobby?
Here are some of statistics concerning branch usage, as compiled
by the research and consulting company Novantas Inc.
m;Average teller transactions dropped from 7,600 in 2008 to
5,600 in 2013. The number is expected to decline to 4,800
m;The average bank saw a 7. 5 percent decline in teller transac-
tions from 2012 to 2013. Declines were even higher in banks
with image-enabled ATMs.
m;Branch sales productivity declined 36 percent between 2005
and 2013, dropping from 1. 7 sales per non-teller full-time
employee per day to 1.08.