The Universal Banker is Here to Stay

Universal Banker – it’s been a buzzword for a couple of years now. Just enter  “universal banker” or “universal teller” into the most popular job search engines and you’ll get thousands of results. Many trends come and go but it looks like this one has staying power. Why? Because all the problems that gave rise to the universal banker approach are still relevant. Declining branch traffic, rising branch costs and changing consumer behavior still beleaguer banks. More than ever, the branch experience is a critical point of customer contact.

“The role of the branch in servicing is shifting, as the rate of consumers preferring the branch for account opening, issue resolution and financial advice levels off — even as deposits and withdrawals continue to shift to other channels. This means that… the branch experience will be front and center precisely at the most sensitive points in the customer lifecycle.” U.S. Multi-Channel Customer Research Report – Novantas.

In other words, customers are coming to the branch when they can’t get what they need using the bank’s mobile app or website. The purpose of the branch is changing from a transaction model to one of service and education. This situation presents great opportunity but equally great risk since this type of customer has complex needs and high expectations. A highly functional universal banker, well trained and well versed in your products and services, is in perfect position to strengthen customer relationships by adding value to every transaction.

Implementing the universal banker model comes with its share of challenges but the ROI is undeniable. The most successful implementations recognize thorough training takes time (a year or more) and use ongoing training to insure success. They seek buy-in by giving their staff a voice in the process and foster constant communication between management and employees. Windsor Federal Credit Union in Connecticut is one such success story with good advice to anyone considering implementing the universal banker approach. If it sounds like a huge investment in time and resources, it’s because it is. But developing the staff you have and increasing employee retention is always more cost-effective than the expense of hiring.

Banks are under enormous pressure to increase branch profitability by growing revenue and controlling costs. Personalized service continues to be the biggest strength the branch has to offer. So it stands to reason that if service is so well executed that a team skilled in retail and service will be able to build meaningful relationships, helping the branch achieve customer loyalty and revenue growth.

See our whitepaper, Open Branches: Providing Better Customer Service,  to discover how an open branch design enables universal tellers to create a more personalized customer experience.