Good ideas don’t always work out in practice. Until recently, that was the case with the idea of a “universal banker.” This concept sought to combine the roles of bank teller and bank seller into one single resource. Unfortunately, it didn’t catch on. Bank tellers didn’t want to be sellers. And bank salespeople didn’t want to be tellers. Worse, training one person in all the skills needed for both positions was nearly impossible.

Now that’s changing, thanks to a set of emerging technologies that includes predictive analytics, AI and machine learning, chatbots, and voice-to-text. As these technologies become more mainstream, they are transforming the universal banker role from yesterday’s “just a good idea” to tomorrow’s “a viable reality.”

By creating a universal banker role, banks stand to enjoy three main benefits:

  • Increased employee efficiency and productivity, which can also lower costs
  • Reduced turnover, thanks to greater employee satisfaction
  • Greater customer satisfaction. This can both lower customer churn and increase revenue with improved cross-selling

These are important benefits. A recent survey by The Economist Intelligence Unit found that nearly half (44%) of organizations across all industries say a top business priority for going digital is increasing employee efficiency and productivity. Nearly as many (43%) cited the improved ability to meet customer demand. And about the same percentage (42%) also prioritize cost savings.

Savings source

The savings from shifting to a universal banker come mainly from increased efficiency and productivity. This means a bank branch can operate with fewer resources.

Consider that tellers and sellers are not working at full capacity every minute of the day. A typical day in a bank branch has both peak periods and lulls, which vary by role due to the natural traffic of customers in the branch. Peak times for a teller are often lulls for the seller and vice versa. By combining the roles, the resource structure of the branch is more evenly distributed throughout the day and the number of resources optimized. The technology enables banks to effectively combine these roles because the processes are optimized, and intelligent assistance is built right in.

With a universal banker and new technologies, banks can also reduce the expense of communicating changes to their branches. Retail-bank operations departments currently spend massive amounts of both time and money communicating changes regarding new systems, new regulations, new features, and updated products and services. Imagine a solution that could not only communicate these changes to frontline personnel in real time, but also provide the tools they need to make these changes seamless for customers. These changes can be conveyed while the banker is completing the process, instead of the banker having to rely on existing documentation that is filed somewhere else.

Trimming turnover

Creating a universal banker position can also reduce turnover by giving employees the tools they need to move through complicated processes with ease. For example, bankers may only be asked to open certain account types, like an estate account, on rare occasions. As such, they may not remember everything that is required as part of that process. Technology can provide tools that deliver all the information that is needed at each step of the process, allowing the banker to feel confident they are completing the steps properly.

Today’s technology tools are intuitive, they can be personalized, and they’re generally easy to use. These tools also can help bankers cope with heavy workloads, allowing them to focus instead on serving the customer. This means less time spent signing into multiple systems, reading through policy manuals, or calling a subject matter expert for further advice. All things being equal, frustrated workers leave, while happy, productive ones stay.

These happy and productive universal bankers can also improve customer satisfaction, because they’re providing them with real value. With one bank employee handling the majority of a customer’s banking needs, the process feels seamless and more efficient from the customer’s point of view. Customers also get the right information at the exact time they need it, further raising satisfaction and retention.

Cross- and up-selling opportunities increase, too. That’s possible as technology gives bank employees access to customers’ full banking portfolios, as well as the tools and techniques they need for selling new products and services.

So, if creating a universal banker position is such a good idea, why aren’t more banks doing it? One major reason is that, while the technologies needed to support the universal banker model have become more mainstream, they are still relatively specialized. Many banks do not have adequate resources, technology, or expertise within their organization to support a successful deployment. However, working with trusted partners and leveraging their expertise across multiple such deployments, could allow financial institutions to take advantage of the universal banker concept.