How to incorporate the universal banker model into your branches today

It is hard to stem the tide of change in the financial services industry, and it is no secret that banks are in a period of upheaval, especially in regard to their products and customer service.

You simply have to look at how people bank today. Consumers desire mobile platforms, versatile ATMs and other online resources. The goal is for speedy, simple - and often "people free" - service. In order to stay relevant, banks have had to adapt and grow. And, their response has been the universal banker model.

"Support your transition to the universal banker model with the right technology."

What is the universal banker model? Today, it incorporates a multi-faceted approach to banking, broadening the scope of a financial institution's services and growing the skill set of its employees. Walk into a branch now, and you may be greeted by a banker who is part teller and part marketer.

What are the positives of a universal banker?
It is a fair assumption that the traditional model of banking won't survive into the future, especially given the current technological trends affecting consumers today. 

To further inspire change, the universal banker model brings its own set of positives. According to an American Bankers Association report, creating a do-it-all staffer can improve three key areas at your bank:

  1. Staff flexibility
  2. Productivity
  3. Efficiency

There doesn't need to be one type of universal banker, however. Instead, consider creating levels.

"The basic universal banker may be a teller with some training on selling simple accounts," Dale Johnson, managing director at banking analytics and advisory firm Novantas, told the ABA. "At the next level, you may provide greater depth in sales training to a platform associate. That may include proactive cross-selling techniques or consumer-lending training. A third level may have securities or insurance licenses, or the ability to talk about residential lending [although the associate may not take applications]."

This will provide your employees with room to grow, and the motivation to do so. It is easy to see why the universal banker model provides increased flexibility, productivity and efficiency.

Train your employees to cover a wider range of rolesA universal banker will be more versatile, productive and efficient

Universal approach can create friction
You may be on board with the universal banker model, but this doesn't mean your current employees agree. In an article for American Banker, contributor Bonnie McGeer spoke with Gary Swindler, senior vice president and chief member officer for Washington-based credit union WSECU.

Swindler explained the value of communication when switching from a traditional banking model to a universal banking model. He recommended going over the transition with your employees about six months before the change. Initially, people may be hesitant of the new role, but if you are clear about the requirements - and offer in-depth training and a pay raise - then most will get on board.

On the other hand, don't issue a mandate forcing employees to adopt the new role or leave the company. Don't spring the switch on them, either. Open dialog and clear communication will make the implementation of the universal banker model much easier.

Support the transition with technology
Moving your bank toward the universal model can be a complicated task, should you not have the right tools in place beforehand.

In most cases, it is the technology that is most important. You will want your employees to become more versatile, which means more time facing the customer. As a result, you need to focus on cutting back on the behind-the-scenes activities at your bank. For example, streamline transactions with cash recyclers, which increase the speed and security of handling money. You may also want to install new ATMs that can fill many of the roles previously played by tellers.

Armed with technology, training and communication, you can help your change from a traditional branch to the universal banker model become as seamless and effective as possible.