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Who needs staff anyway?

Yes, yes, yes, he did it, he finally made up his mind and proudly deposited his hard earned (according to him) pocket money in a bank yesterday.

What am I talking about?

If you have been following my recent blog postings, ‘Lessons learned from the economic downturn’ , ‘What does it mean to be a ’Well Managed’ bank?’ and ‘Is customer-centricity really the key?’, you may recall that my 14-year old son has been trying to decide on the right bank with whom to open his first bank account.  Well, yesterday he finally did it.

So, in appreciation to those of you who have been keeping up to date with the trials and tribulations of this prospective bank customer and offering pearls of wisdom over the last 4 weeks, I thought you might enjoy one final posting on the subject.  Let me tell you about his decision, not who he now banks with, after all, we would not want to give one bank any more publicity than another now would we! No the focus will be on the why.

Last weekend, I was speaking with a friend, who is a personal banker with one of the large UK banks, and I mentioned that my son was looking to open his first bank account.  Then, on Monday morning, we received a call from my friend who introduced me to one of his colleagues, who subsequently invited my son into the branch to discuss what the bank could do for him.

Talk about being proactive!

When we took my son into the bank, the thing that clinched his business wasn’t the thought of a credit or debit card (thank goodness else as Roy McPherson commented on my last blog, I would be the lender of first and last resort).  It wasn’t even the fact that my wife had done business with the bank for the past 30+ years.  Nope, it was the fact the personal banker we met with asked my son what his hobbies were and when he mentioned football she explained that this particular bank sponsored the English Premier League.  This bank was able to differentiate itself from others in a category that resonated with my son’s interests!

As Tsvetomir Vassilev from Belgium commented on my last posting, “I wish I had a dime for every time some CEO rants about how customer centricity is the new strategy. How many companies actually "get it" and build their business around it?”  Whilst this might not be an example of a company wide customer centric initiative, it does demonstrate how key staff can be in winning and losing business.

So within the concept of a ‘Well Managed’ Bank, staff have to be considered as one of the three main assets; customers, capital and staff.

Wouldn’t you agree?

After all, a bank’s staff represents its ability to respond to market changes, to innovate and create new products and to execute and service its commercial operations.  Technology operates within a bank by leveraging the judgment and abilities of the bank’s staff, but a bank still needs the skills and experience of people.

Skilled staff are, however, inherently non-scalable and expensive.  They therefore are a scarce resource and should be applied where they generate the greatest revenue or mitigate the greatest risk.

I think there are two main approaches to achieving this:

• In the first instance, intricate or time consuming yet repetitive activities should be automated wherever possible.  In effect, this allows clerks and analysts that were previously used for back-office and operational roles to be re-deployed to more high value activities

• In the second instance, technology is used in a bank to ensure that pieces of work are categorized and assigned to the appropriate staff according to their importance and the overall workload of the organization.  In the process of doing this, simple categorization and decision-based tasks can be automated using rules or similar technology. 

So there ends my son’s journey from the unbanked to banked, but before I sign off I wanted to leave you with a thought and one which will hopefully stimulate some comments.

Interestingly, there is an estimated 2 billion to 2.5 billion adults across the world have no formal financial services agreements to save or borrow funds.  If banks want to start tapping into this share of the global populous, how do you think it can best leverage its capital, staff and existing customers to build market share? Is the mobile channel really an option- how should it connect with the customer?

I look forward to meeting up with my friend and seeing if he can do anything regarding my own banking requirements, like finding me a better rate of interest!


Comments: (2)

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 12 July, 2010, 09:25Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Ah, ah, the "who" is in the "why"!

When I last checked, there was only one bank that sponsored the English Premier League!

Paul Love
Paul Love - Konsentus - Nottingham 12 July, 2010, 12:46Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I have enjoyed reading your quest Colin, thank you for posting the happy ending.


People buy from people they like and I think sometimes that is forgotten in banks. Brands can build a connection, products can attract attention, processes and systems can enable or destroy personal contact - but to deliver a real one-to-one connection with customers and maintain true customer loyalty, the organisation has to be customer focused from top to bottom.


It will be interesting to hear how your son gets on in his future dealings with his chosen bank!

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