human nature to move back into your comfort zone. That’s
why it’s important to rotate and build an environment that has
distinctive areas of servicing. So, even if my preference is to work
on teller row, I am consistently using my account-opening skills.
And regardless of where I’m working that week, I am able to
initiate cross-sell and deepen the customer relationship.”
If the associate is working with a client at teller row and
wishes to start a loan application, the associate can either go
with the client into an exchange room to start the application,
or, if there is a queue, ask a fellow associate to take over.
First Niagara Bank N.A. (assets $37.6 billion), Lockport, N. Y.,
is relatively new to the universal banker model and approaches
it in a different way than either Extraco or Umpqua. The bank
started in 2012 with a 12-month pilot that included 25 bankers.
Those 25 associates helped to develop the approach that the
bank is rolling out now. First Niagara calls its universal bankers
“customer care representatives.” These representatives handle
all teller transactions, product sales and servicing transactions.
Product sales include deposit accounts, home equity, credit cards
as well as unsecured products. “The only products that they
will always refer to a specialist are mortgages, investments and
business banking loans,” says Scott Fisher, managing director
of retail channels.
How to Implement the Universal Banker Model
Dale Johnson, managing director, Novantas
We like the idea of piloting for some period—you learn nuances of your customers and your staff. This helps you build a
useful playbook for rollout. With pressure on expenses, as you
start out, identify branches that will have material impact on
expenses but minimal risk. In larger branches, you may find
that a pure universal model is not appropriate but that these
associates are a part of the branch compliment.
Also, think about how to set goals. Many bankers think, if staff
is splitting their time between teller and platform, you should
split their goals. The reality is that selling capacity isn’t half, since
they actually have more opportunities to sell. You will probably
see a range of 70 percent to 80 percent of a sales-only associate.
Jamie Eads, retail staffing manager, Bancography
We recommend starting with lower transaction and de novo
sites. Branches with less than 4,000 transactions per month are
good candidates for downsizing. These will generally not need
a teller line to control the flow of traffic during peak times.
James Geeslin, vice chairman and chief consumer
banking officer, Extraco Bank and CEO, Extraco
Get your organization chart right. Get consumer-oriented
managers at the top—it may be hard for a commercial lender
to run this kind of operation.
Scott Fisher, managing director of retail channels,First
Look at your facts—look at your breakpoints—do you have
enough low-transaction branches to warrant the change? Test
and learn. Start small for 90 days or even six months. You may
not have a formal training program in pilot, but rely on your
associates. You’ll quickly discover simple obstacles such as having an onerous process for signing onto the teller systems. You’ll
have to modify policies and procedures to make this change.
Use your employees to help develop the training curriculum,
to build the profile of the “right” employee, to build the model.
And don’t be afraid to give them sales and production goals.
Your staff will rise to the occasion.
Lani Hayward, executive vice president of creative
Know what you’re trying to solve for and be clear about that.
Make sure your employees understand what it means. Have
discipline around the change—people will always go back to
what they know. Hire for it. Pilot it. Have employees be involved
in defining the roles and customer experience. Experiment with
it, and look for how you can measure success.
And lastly, remember why we’re doing all of this—our
customers aren’t judging us on their last branch experience,
but on their last customer experience—whether that was on
Amazon or at Nordstrom.
Here is some advice for a bank thinking about adopting the universal banker approach.
This view of Umpqua Bank’s San Francisco flagship location shows a
concierge (universal banker) operating from a lobby desk that the bank
calls its “Serious About Service” desk. The chocolates on display are part
of a rotating exhibit featuring the bank’s business customers.