At two recent gatherings, Cornerstone Executive Roundtable of human resources executives, this question was asked: “What are the most difficult jobs to fill and keep right now?” In about five seconds, 20 financial executives from institutions of different sizes, strategies, locations and business models unanimously identified two areas with huge challenges:
1) loan officers, especially in commercial and small business, and
2) IT professionals that specialize in data management and business intelligence.
In both areas, the challenges are not surprising. Talent, particularly in big cities, is hard to find. And the big guys are paying big to get what is out there, so salaries for even average performers can be irrational when compared to the rest of the team.
The thought for the day? These HR execs, and many of their peers, feel there needs to be a much bigger future push toward building talent rather than buying it. This is not to say financial institutions don’t develop talent for lending and information technology. They do. But there needs to be a more formal process of direct, aggressive recruitment of top talent at colleges and multi-year training programs with testing, certification, recognition, salary escalation and retention strategies that are as much cultural (interesting work and job satisfaction) as they are financial.
The lending challenge is this: A great generation of lenders is getting close to retirement. And who will replace them? Can bankers make lending something that has panache and appeal to Millennials? Several financial institutions have shown that the answer is yes. They figured out how to send the message that being a lender in a community is an important and rewarding job that helps a lot of people. Two examples (names omitted to protect some pretty proprietary efforts):
Other bankers need to take note of these institutions’ strategies and make this career path appealing to a new pool of applicants.
The challenge with database and business intelligence is a bit different. Unlike lending, database and business intelligence jobs are industry neutral, so the competition for the talent is intense. Unfortunately, a lot of resumes over-represent applicants’ database management and reporting skills. (BTW, the first person to think “just like consultants” is dismissed.) Add to that the fact that people who excel in this area can be, uh, “unique” in their personalities and approach to work. It’s a tough environment. Still, the need can be so great that banks are sometimes forced to settle for the best of who is available at any given time, even if the choices aren’t inspiring. This is understandable, but it never works long-term.
So, can we grow our own database/reporting talent? Look around. There may be some rising stars in departments that really want to follow this career path. There are also very smart college graduates who would respond to a formal training and certification program for specific skills. Since many banks are still in the design stage for a lot of information systems, they can appeal to applicants who want to be part of the data and business intelligence “build.”
Now, to address the obvious challenge with both jobs. Banks are putting a lot of recruiting and training effort into people who immediately become very marketable and prone to poaching by the big guys with the money. But good banks can manage this issue by giving these people a career and culture that makes them want to stay.
Bottom line: The shortage of talent in lending and IT is not going away. Maybe 2018 is the year to ratchet up our long-term “build” strategies. Risky, yes. But managing risk and getting the return for it is what we do.