Every financial institution is looking for ways to operate efficiently - Working Smarter, Not Harder. A trend in staffing, which has been embraced by banks and credit union, is employing a "Universal Banker" or "Universal Associate" to operate branches. They are aslo internally called Floaters, because they have the ability to travel between branches or throughout the branch to provide coverage.
What is a Universal Associate?
Simply put, the universal associate has the ability to perform several different operations, rather than limiting themselves to a single role. This means that instead of only performing cash handling, the associate can help open accounts, disburse loans, perform account maintenance, etc. In addition to servicing customer and member’s needs, they are also tasked to actively sell products and cross sell when appropriate.
A manager hiring for this model at their branches may have existing staff that have the traits and drive to perform this role. However, others need to search out new employees to fill the universal associate position, rather than just training up select tellers. Here are the top four characteristics you should look for when hiring or promoting for a universal associate:
1. Sales. Either sales experience or sales traits. Most universal associates are tasked with goals, from loan origination to account openings. Hiring someone with sales experience provides them with the background to ask leading questions, overcome objections and not fear the response of No. They also will be use to achieving goals/quotas and being compensated directly for those achievements. Sales skills are essential to growing your customer base, and making your customers more profitable to your institution.
If you are looking for sales traits in your current staff, I would suggest having them take personality assessments to target those that would best acclimate to a sales culture. When reviewing staff, look for outgoing and upbeat personalities. There is something to be said in sales for the gift of gab or the ability to befriend anyone.
2. Tech savvy. Most branches have instituted technology to transform their branches and meet the demand of self-service. A universal associate can be expected to service customers by coaching them on how to use new interactive teller machines (ITMs) and other technology, or use different internal devices that service staff, like cash dispensing machines (CDMs). In addition to the hardware that is present, there is software necessary to execute the wide range of services the customer or member will request.
Unfortunately, tech savvy is not typically listed in the skills section of a résumé.
However, I would definitely consider it a skill. It enables an employee to be trained quickly on a multitude of technologies. To test for this trait, ask them questions about common software/applications or understanding technology. I.E. – Do you like how Gmail groups email conversations? OR – In addition to asking them what type of software they have used in the past – ask them what they liked about the software? If you lose them with these questions, I would venture to say that person is not tech savvy.
3. Quick. Ability to learn things quickly and execute. Since a universal associate will be required to execute multiple job functions, most will be trained on more than one area of the bank or credit union. The associate may train with 4-5 employees to fully grasp each job function and understand the branches unique customer demands for services. The ability to learn quickly is a necessity for this position.
Again, this is typically not a skill listed in a résumé’. I would suggest a test for existing employees or applicants. Instruct them how to do something and have them execute it. For example: It could be something you do in your daily job function that they have never had experience doing. Or – Most companies give an aptitude test for Excel. Show them once how to do a formula they need to know for their excel test. You can even suggest they take notes. But be firm on only showing them once, and see if they can execute it independently.
4. No Banking Experience. Some might disagree with this statement; however, it is easier to teach good habits than break bad habits. No one likes change. With instituting universal associates, you may be changing how your staff has always conducted business. It might not be easy for those staff members to pivot.
Also, there are skill sets in other industries you might want to capitalize on. For example – recruiters. They are in a sales culture and service customers. They are used to a more fast paced industry – staffing, and working with businesses and people. Typically they work long hours, since employed individuals don’t look for jobs during office hours. Most would will be willing to change industries for a better work/life balance.
No matter what they are called, universal associates, are now essential to the branch staff mix. Many would agree that hiring is one of the more difficult aspects of management. Your staff makes your bank or credit union successful, so selecting the correct staff has a significant impact. For a universal associate position, that impact directly affects your customer service ratings. It must be the right fit. Keep in mind these traits while hiring, and your universal staff will be as dynamic as the job demands!