Jeff For Banks

Grow Your Own Business Bankers

Commercial loan growth is difficult to come by these days. Some is a result of anemic economic growth and an uncertain business climate. These factors are beyond a banker’s control. But what is within your control is the number and quality of business bankers deployed into your bank’s markets.
Nearly two years ago I wrote a job description for a business banker based on what I heard from bankers on the qualities they value most from people occupying this position. How rare is it to find an exact match between people and expectations? Do your business bankers build well-rounded relationships, or bring you deals? Do they bring value to the customer relationship with expertise in cash flow management, inventory financing, and liquidity needs? If so, can they consistently bring loans that are priced appropriately for the risk, or do they need to shave rates or terms to get deals done?
The answers to these difficult questions makes me wonder why we keep relying on “experienced lenders” to move our institution forward. Perhaps populating our ranks with long-tenured lenders married to price-driven deal making is holding us back from becoming the institution we strive to become.
Maybe there is another way. When bankers comment that they can’t find experienced lenders to add to their staff, I frequently ask what they are doing to grow their own business bankers. What is your answer to that question? Show me the curriculum you have in place to turn the recent hire into the business banker you envision?
There are plenty of high quality training opportunities out there. Both the American Bankers’ Association and Risk Management Association have formal training to teach bankers the skills needed to become the business bankers of the future. Beyond formal training, is a plan, a process if you will, to create bankers capable of flawlessly executing your bank’s strategy and give you a competitive advantage. How can you achieve a competitive advantage by developing business bankers to your exacting standards? Because so few are doing it.
Brokerage firms and insurance companies troll college campuses for their next “big producer”. Most

recruits flame out because they see themselves as the “Wolf of Wall Street”, only to find out that they make little money and get little respect from customers and coworkers at the outset. The “eat what you kill” variable compensation structures don’t pay back the student loans, in most cases.

Banks, conversely, hire with the majority of employee earnings coming in the form of salary. This is a key differentiator to bring your next rising star on board from the college ranks. Entry level professional positions could include the assistant branch manager or branch manager, which was my entry point. Or it could be a credit analyst or portfolio manager. A continuous plan to populate these ranks with recent college graduates with great attitudes and a willingness to learn will breath fresh life into your institution and provide a solid base to build business bankers into the future.
But you need a plan, and have to execute it. If not, good luck on your hunt for experienced lenders.
Do you have a development plan to build business bankers?
~ Jeff

Note: This post first appeared as a guest post for Sageworks in March.