by: Sam Malloy & Kaitlyn Shevlin
It goes without saying that talent is a top-of-mind concern for community FI’s. Amidst the AI explosion, the wide-spread prioritization of hybrid work, and the rapidly evolving fintech landscape, community banks are at a critical crossroad. Those that embrace the changes will thrive, while those that resist may find themselves soon struggling to stay afloat.
You might be wondering, what’s the secret sauce tech companies have that attracts cutting-edge talent? More importantly, can community banks capture this energy for themselves? It’s a complex issue with an even more complex solution; one that no one seems to have quite cracked yet.
At their core, banks exist to serve and strengthen their communities, which is why people have loved banking locally for decades on end. Similarly, Gen Z has grown up with a passion for community and an ambition to make the world a better place. It’s a match made in heaven, if banks can act on it.
As two recent college graduates who’ve experienced this job market first-hand, we’ve compiled our thoughts, along with some insights from Christian Ruppe, Georgia-based Colony Bank’s Chief Innovation Officer, on what would lead a candidate in our position to choose to work at a community bank.
Here are four strategies you can implement at your bank to move confidently into the tech-powered future, from the minds of two of BankTech’s resident Gen Z’s:
1. Energize the team you already have.
Organizations often struggle to build teams of experienced and dedicated individuals. This is less of an issue for community banks, who have been loyally serving their communities for decades if not longer. Mobilizing your strongest asset (your existing, experienced team) in a tech-empowered way is not only beneficial for them as individuals, but will trickle down to improve every aspect of your bank’s operations.
Here is our advice:
- Make your employee’s lives easier using low-code tech. Automate rote tasks so your team can be free to execute higher-impact projects. (Protip: implementing Fintel Connect’s performance marketing tool can free up hours of compliance and tracking work for your CMO. Additionally, AI meeting assistants like Supernormal can save tons of time and make meetings feel like less of a burden.)
- Train your employees on new technologies, consistently. We fear what we don’t understand, and fear is the enemy of progress. Budget for training courses, bring in experts to coach, and support team members seeking out educational opportunities on their own. The student mindset is a powerful thing, and digitalization should be a core competency of all employees.
💡Companies like Pluralsight and Coursera allow employees to learn skills through video training courses on topics such as software development, data and machine learning, security training, and other professional development.
💡Educating your team on the security risks of generalist tools like ChatGPT and notion.ai will cut down on fear and allow your employees to experiment safely on their own.
2. Make sourcing candidates the job of all bank employees.
It’s well known that the best candidates come from networking, just as the best jobs come from networking. Whatever defines your workplace culture, you can mobilize your team to source folks that want what you have to offer.
Christian put it this way: “As an institution, you have to know what kind of community you are building–and who is actually going to thrive in that community.”
Here are some tangible actions you can take:
- Each month, ask your team who is in their talent pipeline. Company-wide networking increases both brand awareness and familiarity using sourcing tools like LinkedIn.
- Treat hiring like sales. Christian offered: “You would never just post your product on a website and hope that someone comes to it, or post it on LinkedIn and hope that someone finds it. You're going to be actively trying to find the best customers and finding ways to improve the product. If I'm an institution, I'm treating my positions as a product.” You know what you have to offer, so go sell it. Establish your bank’s unique employer brand by getting your name out there (not just from the HR team, but the entire employee base).
💡 Externships are a valuable opportunity for your bank to showcase itself to a younger audience. Multi-day, immersive externship programs bring new young professionals into your organization and can include shadowing, workshops and mentor-led projects. Programs like this allow bright young professionals to learn about the bank’s operations and offer insights from a new perspective. Win-win.
3. Leave outdated practices where they belong: in the past.
Gen Z entered a post-pandemic workplace market that offers a stark departure from what senior leadership is used to providing, and banks must adapt. Christian explained, “If you're serving a community and you don't have someone from that community who has a say in what you're building, then you're set up for failure.” If community banks want to grow digitally, there must be folks on the team that natively understand digital engagement.
Here’s what we suggest:
- Experiment with hybrid work. According to a study by McKinsey, 87% of the average workforce demographic today are more likely to opt for remote work. Don’t limit your exposure to talent that can move your bank forward.
- Ditch the annual performance review. Restricting honest dialogue about an employee’s performance and growth potential to once a year is a sure-fire way to kill momentum and encourage them to leave. If an employee is about to leave, you should already know why. Keep a consistent pulse on your team’s attitudes and career goals–the bank will be stronger for it.
- Allow change to come from all levels. The phrase “that’s not your job” belongs in the past. Great ideas can come from anywhere, and cross-department collaboration can yield the strongest solutions. Christian opined,“It's okay to brush off a young person that has opinions, until you realize you don't have any young customers.”
- Make system audits a constant effort. Everything from the bank’s website design to the team’s internal communication process should be subject to change.
4. Adopt a growth mindset.
Expect to fail occasionally, but learn how to fail forward. Celebrate what works and iterate on what doesn’t. The discomfort is a manageable price to pay for revolutionary process improvement.
A few tangible ways to manage change:
- When something doesn’t work, stay positive. Rather than shutting down and scrapping the initiative altogether, regroup with your team and discuss the reality of why it failed. Leave that meeting with action items and a positive attitude. After some time, the discomfort of failure will still feel like a win.
- Adopt a diversity-forward mindset. “Diversity” does not exclusively refer to age, race and gender. Diversity also encompasses varying ways of thinking and approaching problems. Banks must embrace disruptive ideas to foster creativity, motivation, and agency among team members. Homogeneity of thought stifles the individual spirit, and the new generation of talent highly values the ability to make a real impact in their workplace.
The bottom line? Bank leadership must be unafraid of change. Challenging what you have is the only way to find something better, and we're here to help.
Here at BankTech Ventures, we sit at the intersection of community banking and tech innovation. Powered by industry leaders and a network of over 100 banks across the country, we find practical, bank-enabling fintech companies and work with their leadership to maximize efficacy for our investor base and beyond. To learn more about BankTech Ventures, get in touch with Sam (email@example.com) or Kaitlyn (firstname.lastname@example.org).