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The Skills All RMs Need for the Future

Huge leaps forward in artificial intelligence have spawned a cottage industry in describing the future of work; like those in many other sectors, banking RMs will need to be adept at translating data into new and interesting solutions and ideas

Across the past few years, a lot of commentators have spent a lot of time predicting what robotics and artificial intelligence will mean for everyone’s working lives in the decades to come. A World Economic Forum report, The Future of Jobs (pdf), even goes so far as to coin a new era: the “fourth industrial revolution.”

According to the report, this shift will see a lot of demand for two types of jobs, regardless of industry. Data analysts who can derive insights from new information, and specialized sales reps who can commercialize innovative products, and target new clients.

For financial services professionals, and those working with business customers in particular, they will have to blend technological literacy with creative sales techniques to help customers understand the importance of new products and services.

Enter the Challenger

To do this, three traditionally sought after skills will become even more important. All employees will need to be adept at complex problem solving, critical thinking, and coming up with creative solutions or new ideas. For banking relationship managers (RMs), the most sought after profile is that of the “challenger” RM.

These RMs know that customers are typically over half of the way to making a decision on which bank to buy services from before any sales interaction and so know that the best route to success is to teach the customer about an unknown problem about their own business (why their products don’t appeal to a certain customer segment, for example) that then leads the customer to the bank’s unique ability to solve their problem.

Those that do engage customers in this way produce 39% more new loan production than their non-Challenger counterparts, and double the new fee income production, according to CEB data.

How to Turn Your RMs Into Challengers

In a recent survey of 3,000 RMs, 23% across the industry already strongly exhibit challenger competencies. In other words, by their very nature, there is a significant population of RMs that tend to provide this different perspective and debate with their customers.

And the large majority of RMs are capable of being trained to be more like challengers. With the exception of the chronic low performer and the “lone wolf” that is fixed in his or her approach, every RM is capable of exhibiting a profile that more closely matches a “challenger,” and seeing the consequent rise in performance.

Finally, there is an aspect of the challenger-based customer experience that doesn’t rely on the RM at all. Banks that are able to equip their RMs with the right messaging, customer insights, and tools are able to artificially imitate the essential characteristics of a challenger sales experience.

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