Recent years have seen a wave of pandemic-induced early retirements and a national game of house-swapping as remote work encouraged people to move farther away from physical offices.
Many companies are struggling to rebuild teams; this includes financial institutions that need to replace employees with decades of specialized expertise. In BAI’s Banking Outlook 2023 survey, financial institutions named attracting and retaining talent a top business concern. Nowhere is this complex challenge starker than in the primary revenue center for banks: the lending department. This article will explore ways your lending team can navigate banking’s talent shortage.
1. Leave the Paper Jam
Collecting and filing physical documents is like sand in the gears of your loan origination process. It’s cumbersome for applicants and can lead to errors during data entry. By some estimates, loan officers spend as much as 30% of their time collecting personal financial statements and other documents. Your bank won’t be able to eliminate the documents, but it can reduce paper touches and data entry.
Perform an audit of your institution’s lending process. Map it on a whiteboard and flag where paper handling or manual data entry happens. Then discuss ways to optimize those steps digitally.
The less time your lending team spends on menial tasks, the more time they can spend serving your borrowers and applying their skills for higher-value tasks. This can also become a selling point when interviewing job candidates; making people feel efficient and productive at their jobs can make them more likely to stick around.
2. Create a Mature Data Ecosystem
Financial institutions handle large volumes of data through a variety of software and vendors. However, this leads to fragmentation: the software systems and various databases don’t communicate easily, or they require a lot of manual intervention before data is ready for processing.
Consider auditing your institution’s data ecosystem and mapping it on a whiteboard. Highlight workflows where data can’t be exchanged easily and consult with your technology team to identify solutions and tools to automate data processing. It may feel like you’re taking time and talent away from the business of lending, but making a one-time investment in process improvements can generate compounding returns in the future.
Make automation and data maturity a foundation that allows your lending team to move quickly and deliver a seamless experience for your borrowers. Loan officers who feel like they have all the tools they need may experience a higher level of job satisfaction too.
3. Foster a Growth Mindset
There are two ways to gain experience: Hire someone who already has it or hire someone willing to learn. The first option is faster, but the second option allows your bank to select from a much wider pool of candidates.
Hiring people with a growth mindset allows the bank to train and mentor employees on its processes and values. Removing the requirement for years of role-specific experience will allow your bank to recruit people who fit your culture. Building out a robust training program for the tactical aspects of the job gives your financial institution the best of both worlds.
Some leaders may worry about training inexperienced people and watching them leave for higher-paying jobs at other companies. That’s a valid concern — but one that you can mitigate by proactively rewarding people and responding to their desire for workplace advancement.
4. Embrace a Hybrid Workplace
Fully remote work isn’t a good fit for every company or employee; many people crave flexibility. What if your bank offered the option for people to choose one or two days where they work from home? This allows them to manage family and personal responsibilities more easily, and it can also provide precious “focus time” for important projects.
There’s nothing wrong with designating some roles as fully in-office and others as fully remote — for example, credit analysts. The key is to collaborate with employees on policies that serve the needs of the institution and their personal needs. Whatever work policy your institution goes with, it’s worth investing in technology solutions that make your institution more nimble and less reliant on in-person interactions for critical business processes.
While there is no silver bullet to win a war for talent, there are concrete strategies you can use to attack the challenge from multiple sides. The same growth mindset that you want to cultivate in your employees is the same mindset that will help your institution succeed, regardless of the talent crunch.