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Look West - what European retail banks can learn from the US

 

With the economic outlook in Europe still far from rosy, and signs of a further stumble coming from North America, consumers across the Northern hemisphere are getting used to the idea of having to make their money go further. This is apparent in retail banking as much as in any other consumer-facing industry and, combined with a regulatory and economic squeeze on the revenues available from investment and consultancy operations, banks are looking to maintain the flow of cash from their retail operations. In the UK, in particular, part of the effect of regulatory action has been to introduce more competition to the market, and this has seen a resumption of the debate around the future of ‘free if in credit’ accounts. There are similar symptoms in many other countries, as retail banks look to protect revenues and build capital.

 

In this climate there is a powerful imperative to seize any advantage possible. I provide workforce management consultancy to retail banks across Europe, and over the last few years I’ve seen my clients take a renewed interest in developing their workforce management infrastructure to increase efficiencies and productivity levels. This is partly inspired by the success of retail banks in the US which, in a more fragmented, more competitive retail banking market, have long focused on getting the best out of their personnel as a route to better margins.

 

With the situation in Europe changing as it is, more European banks are starting to implement modern workforce management strategies to make sure that the right staff are in the right place, at the right time – at all times. That may sound like a simple task, but it’s rare to find an area manager that has the time to take proper, scientific account of the dozens of factors that affect staffing decisions, and to plan in a genuinely optimised manner. It’s a rarer individual still who can adapt that plan to take account of real-time changes in a business’s trading environment and manage this around the day-to-day tasks.

 

Having seen the successes that some US retail banks have achieved such as retail banking giant, SunTrust Banks, Inc. which reported 500% ROI following its implementation of workforce management software, European retail banks are starting to follow the lead of their transatlantic cousins, and take workforce management seriously. After all, with the salaries and training that retail banks invest in their staff often exceeding those on the rest of the high street, it makes sense to maximise the return on that investment in any way one can.

 

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