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Commercial Banking

Help Sales Teams Thrive in a New Work Environment

Banks should help relationship managers navigate a new way of working with colleagues and a new way of selling to customers

Business People Teams SilhouetteAlthough the outlook may be sunnier for financial services firms than it has been at any time since 2008, the ramifications of the banking crisis, from how customers view banks to how legislators regulate their behavior, will rumble on for years yet.

And that’s not all; the introduction of digital technology into anything finance-related is also upending an industry more buffeted than any other in the past decade.

The explosion of technology in finance – from managing your personal finances, to the activity on any trading floor, to how people pay for their morning coffee, to how a CFO balances the books – could make it seem to outsiders that many big investment decisions must currently involve a rare level of strategic clarity and confidence. But every week, financial services (FS) executives from all over the world and all parts of the sector tell CEB staff that their leadership teams remain deeply divided about the digital functionality they need, at what level of investment, provided through which suppliers, and for what business purposes.

So with changing regulations, competitors proliferating, and a lot of complex uncertain decisions to be made, senior managers are eager to improve the performance of their current group of employees. And they think there is room to do so: only 6% of commercial banking executives believe that more than two-thirds of their workforce is performing at the highest possible level.

Better Work Doesn’t Mean Harder Work

The conventional approach to generating greater individual productivity, pushing relationship managers (RMs) to work harder and longer, will likely fail. RMs already work long hours and believe that they do not have enough time to do their job; pushing them to work even harder just risks disengagement and departing staff.

Higher workloads and increased employee stress are symptomatic of fundamental shifts in the working environment of all workplaces, including in commercial banks. To find sustainable productivity gains, commercial banking managers need to shift away from the traditional means of improving performance, and equip their RMs in the following ways.

  1. A new way of working: In this new work environment, the key causes of poor performance are frequent organizational change, more interdependent work, and an increase in knowledge work.

    Banks that can adapt to changing regulation and business demands, collaborate effectively across business lines, and make better use of data will bolster high-performance in the new work environment.

  2. A new set of skills: The most important skills required for high performance over the next three years have changed from those of the past three years.

    The majority of commercial banking employees don’t have enough of the skills required for high-performance in this new environment, including business acumen, receptivity to change, problem solving, and communication.

  3. A new aspiration for the sales culture: The cultural attributes of this high-performing commercial banking workforce are to be “adaptive and agile,” engaged, collaborative, innovative, and entrepreneurial.

    These cultural attributes that commercial banks aspire to in the new work environment are in direct conflict with an industry that is historically defined as conservative, highly regulated, confidential, and based on personal relationships.


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