Community banking’s success depends, in part, on the preparedness of millennials. Efforts throughout Kansas, including those of BBOK, are focused on educating, developing and attracting young talent to fill vital roles in the maturing bank workforce.
The W.R. and Yvonne Robbins Banking Institute at Fort Hays State University is the only one of its kind in the state and one of a handful of college programs around the country that offers a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance with a banking concentration, according to Mark Bannister, dean of the Robbins College of Business and Entrepreneurship.
Starting in the fall of 2017, students who pursue a banking concentration will take finance courses along with more banking specific studies such as principles of banking, bank management, bank strategy and financial statement analysis. The curriculum is designed so, upon graduation, banking fundamentals have been learned and the employee can focus on production to accelerate faster through a bank’s ranks.
W.R. Robbins is a veteran banker and CEO of Farmers Bank and Trust in Great Bend. A graduate of Fort Hays State University, he was passionate about creating a university program that helped attract students to the banking industry. “Education is key to bring up the next generation of bankers so family banks aren’t forced to sell as owners age,” says Robbins. The program is designed for on-campus and virtual-learning. The virtual-learning is ideal for professionals already working in banks that have the aptitude but not necessarily the qualifications to be promoted into leadership positions.
Over the next five years, Bankers’ Bank of Kansas is investing $25,000 in scholarship funding for students who want to pursue a banking concentration. BBOK officers are also investing time to consult on the curriculum and guest lecture.
Internship programs provide opportunity for students to receive front line experience. For five years, BBOK has offered two summer internships to college students entering their senior year. “The interns this year bring enthusiasm to the bank and a sincere desire to learn as much as they can during the time they are with us,” says Peg Baldwin, BBOK Vice President. “Nearly all of our summer interns have gone on to successful careers in our partner banks.”
Through the BBOK internship program, students work in every department of correspondent banking. Madison Williams, a finance major at Kansas State University, has worked at First Commerce Bank in Marysville as a teller. Madison says her internship deepened her knowledge of how various departments support each other and the importance of a bankers’ bank to the mix. Her experience at BBOK has given her an opportunity to delve into areas she found most intriguing: loans, finance and customer care.
After graduation, Madison says she would like to work in a community bank. “There is something special about small bank familiarity, really knowing your customers and matching the products you offer to create a solution.”
Sam Keeny, an ag business student at KSU, has appreciated the opportunity to build relationships with bankers from around the state during his internship. Experiencing the commercial side of lending has fueled a greater interest in that area, which he plans to pursue after college. “I believe the skills I possess, like the ability to talk to and connect with a varied group of people, will serve me well in a lending position.”
Growing up in a banking family, Sam is passionate about the role locally owned banks play in a thriving community. He’s seen first-hand the need for the industry to attract young people into a banking career path. “Young people my age will keep community banking alive. We are the future of banking, as customers and as employees.”
How banks position themselves to attract young employees who want to grow into management has been a priority for bankers for years. Some say the bank culture is too traditional for millennials. But community banks offer many things attractive to young workers, including easy access to upper management, a clear path for career development and in-demand pay and benefits.
Bringing up-and-comers into the decision-making fold at each level, empowering them to make decisions, and building a collaborative environment where their ideas are heard and valued, can help banks retain top talent.
Attracting top, vibrant talent has become an intentional journey for NBKC Bank over the past several years. With six branches, $540M in assets and 300 employees, finding people who are creative, innovated, entrepreneurial and bold thinkers is a primary focus for the leadership team, not just in strategic planning but in daily conversations. Jessica Eggers, NBKC Bank SVP of recruitment and employee development, says the bank is intentional about its culture from its workspace, to its technology, to its generous benefits package, “we are competing against Fortune 500 companies to attract top talent that will grow with our bank.”
The new, five-story corporate office in Kansas City was built to appeal to employees young and old, with spaces for collaboration, such as an outdoor patio with WIFI capabilities; for relaxation, such as the state-of-the-art fitness center; and for social interaction, such as the arcade and putting green. Eggers says the bank encourages a work hard, play hard culture. It hosts activities such as happy hours, charitable events and team building events to bring employees together. Quarterly lunchtime learning opportunities focus on professional and personal growth, and are open to all employees regardless of their position in the bank.
Technology also plays a huge role in attracting employees. At NBKC Bank’s branch locations, customers interact with virtual teller machines so they can transact with a person face-to-face in a virtual environment. The in-house IT and software development group at the bank are constantly looking for solutions to accommodate both employees and customers.
Like generations before them, today’s youth continue to challenge the industry. Embracing and adapting to benefit from this generation’s skill set, drive and desire to create change will ultimately keep community banking thriving.