Talent Strategy: Fueling the Future

A tight labor market could be big risk if your bank lacks the talent to fuel its future. How can bank boards and management teams manage this risk? In this video, Julia Johnson of Wipfli shares why your bank should conduct a human resources review and provides tips to help banks tackle the talent challenge.

  • Four HR Areas Bank Leaders Should Be Watching
  • How Boards Can Better Understand HR Portfolio Risk
  • The Impact of Today’s Economic Environment

A Long-Term Care Plan Can Attract Top Talent

retention-7-13-18.pngOne of the biggest threats to retirement assets is the out-of-pocket cost of long-term care (LTC). While 51 percent of people see LTC as a financial concern and 70 percent of Americans 65 or older will need LTC assistance at some point in their lives, only about 8 percent of people of buying age and income own LTC insurance (LTCI), according to recent surveys and government data. Why is there such a disconnect, what can employers do to help solve the problem, and how does LTCI provide one more way to attract and retain top talent?

LTC is a growing concern because of escalating costs and because people are living longer. As they age, people become more likely to need help with two or more of their routine daily activities, such as dressing, eating, bathing, walking, toileting or getting in and out of a chair or bed. The need is more likely to impact women than men due to their longer life spans. But it is important to note that LTC is not just for the elderly: 40 percent of those receiving LTC services are between the ages of 18 and 64, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Despite the need, most people do not purchase LTCI for a variety of reasons, including cost, belief they will not need LTC services, uncertainty about when to purchase a policy, and lack of complete information provided to them. People usually become more motivated to seek coverage after a family member needs a nursing home or other LTC assistance and they become aware of the high costs ( average of $91,000 in 2015, according to a 2017 study by Genworth). Or, employees become more motivated after they have a medical issue that creates a concern. However once a significant medical issue occurs, it may become more difficult or very expensive to obtain coverage. Employer-provided health and disability insurance policies do not cover LTC costs.

Employers can help significantly by doing some of the vetting of LTC carriers and products and making them available on a voluntary, employer-paid, or employer-subsidized basis. Studies by LIMRA, an industry research firm, show that 59 percent of employees prefer buying insurance at their workplace. An employer-sponsored program can be offered to all employees as well as their family members. Spousal and marital discounts may apply and the policies are generally 100 percent portable, meaning the employee can choose to take over premium payments and retain the LTCI upon separation from the employer.

If the employer pays for the coverage for 10 or more qualifying employees (possibly as a perk for key employees), the program may qualify for certain additional advantages, including simplified underwriting, which typically results in 90 to 95 percent approval, a standard health class for all approved applicants, a unisex rate structure and reduced premiums. Furthermore, the bank has the option of purchasing bank-owned life insurance (BOLI) to offset and recover any expenses it incurs in providing LTC benefits.

Current tax rules encourage the purchase of LTCI, with the largest tax benefits afforded to employer-provided policies. Generally, employer-paid premiums are deductible to the employer while being excluded from the employee’s taxable income. In addition, the employee is not taxed on LTC benefits received, up to certain limits.

As co-author of this article and someone with two parents who needed nursing home care, I (David Shoemaker) can attest to the value of LTCI and am grateful my parents purchased it while they were young. LTCI allowed for better care for them and kept their retirement assets mostly intact.

By offering LTCI, the bank can fill a need in its benefits portfolio, making it easier to attract and retain top talent.

Redefining the Meaning of a Customer Relationship

relationship-3-12-18.pngFor most people, brick and mortar branches have become remnants of prior generations of banking. In the digital age of mobile deposits and non-financial, non-regulated companies like PayPal there is little incentive to walk into a local branch—particularly for millennials. This presents an anomaly in the community banking model. Community banks are built upon relationships, so how can the banks survive in an era so acutely inclined towards, and defined by, technology seemingly designed to eliminate “traditional” relationships?

The solution is to redefine the term “traditional” relationship. While customers may not want to walk into a branch to deposit a check, they still want information and advice. Just because a millennial does not want to deposit a check in person does not mean that he or she will not need to sit with a representative for guidance when applying for their first home loan. Using customer segmentation and understanding where there are opportunities to build relationships provides an opportunity to overcome the imminent threat of technology.

If information and advice are the keys to building relationships, it becomes imperative that bank employees are fully trained and knowledgeable. It is crucial that community banks spend time hiring the right people for the right position and then train and promote from within. Employees must fully understand, represent and communicate a brand. That brand must be clearly defined by executive management and communicated down the chain of command. It is incumbent upon the leaders of the organization to first set an example and then ask their employees to follow suit. Some of the most successful community bank CEOs can recognize their customers by name when they walk into a branch. These are not the biggest clients of the bank, but they are probably the most loyal because of the quality of the relationship.

The focus needs to switch from products and transactions towards specific relationships with specific customer segments. Customer-centric banking strategies will improve the chances of survival for community banks. Those that are not able to adapt will be eclipsed by the recent revival of de novos or will be acquired by institutions that are embracing this customer-centric approach. A customer-centric approach is critical to drive value whether pursuing organic growth or M&A. For banks evaluating an acquisition, there are additional considerations that need to be addressed prior to entering into a transaction, in order to safeguard the customer relationships that the bank has built and ensure that the deal enhances the bank’s brand and business model, while also building value.

If you are one of the survivors and are engaged in an acquisition, what does all of this mean for you?

  1. FinPro Capital Advisors Inc. advocates having strict M&A principals and parameters when evaluating the metrics of a deal, which will vary from bank to bank. This concept extends to culture and branding as well. A good deal on paper does not necessarily translate to a successful resultant entity. If a transaction will dilute your franchise, disrupt your culture or business model, or in any way undermine the brand and customer base you have built, do not pursue it.
  2. Signing a definitive agreement is not the same thing as closing a transaction. Integration begins as soon as the ink dries on the contract. Planning should have occurred well in advance. Management needs to focus on employee, customer and investor reception of the deal, along with regulatory approvals and strategic planning. A poorly executed integration can provide an inauspicious start culturally and can increase merger costs substantially.
  3. Retain the best talent from each institution and take the time to ensure that the employees are in the right position. Roles are not set in stone and an acquisition provides the perfect opportunity to re-position the bank’s staffing structure. This includes implementing management succession and talent management plans for the new entity. Develop an organizational structure for the future, not just for today.
  4. Communicate effectively throughout the entire process. Be transparent and be honest. Bolster relationships and foster enthusiasm in the new entity from day one. Corporate culture is one of the most difficult attributes to quantify but it is palpable and can either energize every person in the company or rapidly become toxic and disruptive.

For all banks, the brand and culture that you build will directly impact your customer base and define the banking relationships you create. To build meaningful relationships with your customers, banks must first build meaningful relationships within the organization. In so doing, banks will be able to redefine their model by focusing on relationships instead of transactions, customers instead of products, and eliminate isolated divisions to create integrated organizations. The traditional banking model may be dead but banks with strong leadership and corporate culture will recognize the new paradigm and enact change to evolve accordingly.