“I took a speed reading course.
When I was done, I read ‘War and Peace’ in an hour.
It was about Russia.”
When my grandfather was growing up in rural Ireland and formal education wasn’t available to everybody, one of the major ways learning was accomplished was through the shanachie. The literal translation of the word is “storyteller,” but the shanachies were much more than that. They were educators who traveled throughout the country and taught wherever a group of people would gather – at a stone fence, in a barn, at the pub. No topic was off limits, no question was stupid, and every bit of knowledge was valued. Equally important was that shanachies were learners as much as teachers. If they picked up an additional piece of history, another bit of language, or a new tip on farming, they would take it and pass it on at the next village.
In a way, they were the human version of the APIs and the middleware used in modern systems. They took disparate pieces of information from different sources, found connections among them, passed them on to places they would be valuable, and added some spin and wisdom in the process.
Hold this thought and let’s fast forward 115 years or so. Bank department managers are hip deep in the budgeting process and putting in the initial technology training budget request for, say, $50,000… OK, make that $30,000… er, how about $20,000? … um, well, $10,000 plus whatever people can get at the junior college at night for free.
At the same time, one of the major themes we see in technology planning is increasing the payoff from existing systems and maximizing new investments that have already been made. Training and learning are, of course, key to this goal. What makes this challenge unique in 2004 is the fact that much of the learning required isn’t available at any seminar or class. For example, there is no school that teaches how Visa and Wal-Mart are ultimately going to affect the payment system and bank fee income; no course on how to use the Internet to reduce the cost of loan delivery; and no tutorial on how to get payoff from a data warehouse investment. Because the bank, the vendors, and consultants don’t know how the combination of new technology, business process, policies, and customer behavior is going to play out. The technology is too new, customer behavior is too unpredictable, and bank processes are too unique for anybody to know.
All in all, this makes 2004 a unique challenge – sort of a “learn as we go and go as we learn” environment – and while your almost-all-knowing seers at GonzoBanker don’t have all the answers either, we do have some ideas about how to tackle the whole unique training issue next year. Here are four suggested “Gonzo Training” ideas for 2004.
1. Set the learning assignments
Instead of starting by discussing what everyone’s training needs are, let’s ask this question: what are the one or two deep technology skills or areas of knowledge your lines of business need to be have by the end of 2004 that they don’t have now? Here are some ideas:
Imaging systems and workflow. Everybody agrees that the true payoff from document imaging systems will come when they are integrated into the origination and servicing processes, but few banks have seen this happen. There’s got to be a breakthrough somewhere.
How the Internet will improve decisioning, delivery, and servicing. There is a huge opportunity to automate write-ups, document exchange, renewals, exceptions, and customer communications using the Internet and intranets. But the answer will not be as obvious as “buy a new system.”
Item Processing (or Deposit Ops)
Check 21. The industry is going to save a huge amount of money when Check 21 is implemented. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, that makes a banker happier than saving money (unless it’s winning a commercial loan deal so complex you need a Cray computer to calculate the payments). Somebody needs to figure out what you need to do to get your share.
Sales Management (or Marketing)
Enterprise contact management. Is there a bank or any other company that can show how getting everybody on a common contact management platform has measurably helped the sales effort? If so, let’s get on it. If not, let’s stop all the talk.
Payment systems. Debit cards…check conversion…ACH….P2P… there is no area where external technology could have a greater impact on fee income and consumer behavior. Somebody needs to know how emerging payment systems will impact your bank and how/when you can take advantage of the trends.
Integrated delivery systems design. Integrated delivery is one of the hottest topics in banks today – common systems, common information, common look/feel, etc. There will be hard tradeoffs in terms of standards and vendors if this vision is to be realized. IT needs to educate management about these tradeoffs.
Report automation. The financial function has the best opportunity to show how data warehouse can improve information management, since it has the most pressure to provide information and analysis. This group also tends to be the “power user” of reporting systems. If any group can show how to leverage data warehouse or information systems, it’s this one.
CRM. Put the big picture aside for a minute. Any CRM initiative needs some quick wins. What have banks done with focused CRM initiatives that have provably increased sales production, fee income, or account growth? Let’s have Marketing find out for us.
If you don’t agree with these ideas, fine. I think, however, that it is important to set some specific knowledge expectation for every group.
2. Find experts, and don’t be afraid to call them
Look at the knowledge we suggested lines of business acquire. Classes and seminars might help, but in truth an hour with somebody who has some practical experience and success in an area could provide 10 times the benefit. It could be a peer who has been experimenting, or a vendor, or a counterpart in another industry. Whoever it is, don’t be shy. Make a phone call and pick his or her brain.
3. When at training, leverage lunch time and drink time as much as class time
See above. The people you meet over the chicken and peas may turn out to be your best long-term source of information and experience. Get cards and e-mail addresses and keep in touch.
4. Create white papers
Whoever the internal experts are, have them share industry news, trends, perspectives, and success stories – in writing – with other bank managers. They can be short, focused reports that give managers perspective on how technology is affecting a product or line of business. Ask to see specific recommendations for action. It will force your experts to think and apply their knowledge to your bank. It will also give them a chance to shine.
In summary, look at 2004 as a year where your employees can’t just be students in a class. The need to be shanachies, people who gather information and share it whenever they can and get a little wisdom as a result.
Who will be your shanacies? Or, if you’re more into the 21st century than the 19th, who will be your human APIs and middleware?