Job opportunities in banking and technology are abundant in larger metropolitan markets around the country.  Typically, workers are attracted to these larger markets because they offer career building potential.  The majority of community banks are not headquartered in the large financial services centers, which can increase the difficulty of attracting and retaining people with the skills needed to run a modern bank. Remote opportunities can solve this issue.

According to a survey from Independent Banker, 30% of community financial institution’s CEOs cite attracting and retaining qualified staff as one of the institution’s greatest challenges in 2020.  Community bankers often describe the difficulty of finding people who are willing to relocate to smaller cities or rural areas.  This creates talent gaps that prevent community banks and credit unions from thriving.  Additionally, this puts pressure on existing staff, who are asked to do more to respond to new competitive threats and evolving regulatory requirements.

Community Career Growth

But community banks and credit unions are great places to build careers.  They represent many of the employment characteristics that are important in the modern workforce.  The banking industry is in the middle of a fundamental, technology-driven transformation, which creates opportunities for go-getters to step up to solve urgent problems.  Community banks tend to be mission-focused and community-oriented, which creates a “more than just a job” ethos.  Many community banks and credit unions have generational turn-over at executive levels on the near-term horizon, which creates opportunities for mentorship and advancement. Furthermore, banks and credit unions provide stable job security that has become increasingly threatened in other industries over the last twenty years. No matter what, banks and credit unions are essential – no matter what recession, pandemic or emergency comes along.

So, why not remove physical location as a disqualifier for hiring?  Hire the best people from across the country and let them stay where they are.  One of the silver linings of the COVID-19 crisis is that it has demonstrated that many businesses, including banks, can run productively while employees are working remotely.  Contrary to conventional wisdom, shared office space is not a requirement for productive work collaboration.  Modern technology enables, and in some ways enhances, teamwork across physical distance. 

Enabling Digital Success in Remote Teams

Enabling remote team members goes hand-in-hand with setting up cloud-based infrastructure to run the bank.   Requirements include:

  • The ability to distribute PCs or laptops and manage them remotely.
  • A good video conferencing tool with appropriate security controls.
  • A good set of collaboration tools to enable joint management and development of work product.
  • Access to bank systems via a virtual private network (VPN), ideally augmented with an identity & access management platform (IAM) for more robust user authentication. 
  • Strong and stable internet connectivity for remote workers.  Company subsidies to offset remote employees’ internet provider bills can help ensure this. 
    • Subsidies for home office furniture for remote team members is a nice perk, but not a requirement.

Enabling Interpersonal Success in Remote Teams

Building an effective remote workforce is not all about technology.  Remote workers need to be part of the team, and not feel like they are left on an island.  Bank and credit union executives and managers need to ensure remote workers are included in the daily flow of activity at the bank.  This starts with an emphasis on good, old-fashioned leadership practices:

  • Regular, frequent communications to the team;
  • Focusing on facilitating interactions between team members;
  • Attention to building company culture; and,
  • Clear communication of objectives and expectations for remote workers with proper engagement to mutually track progress.

Fundamental Business Relationships

Business will always be built on personal relationships and networks.  Trust is built in the trenches as people work together to achieve common goals.  Familiarity is built over time as people engage for different purposes in different contexts.  All of these dynamics hold true even when part of your team is remote.  Banks and credit unions need to create opportunities for remote workers to visit their colleagues at the “mothership.”  In-person project kick-off meetings, team-based training, and quarterly all-hands meetings create great opportunities for remote workers to develop personal relationships with each other and their office-based colleagues.  The bank needs to be willing to invest in travel for these important culture-building events.  Travel budget is offset by reduced need for office space for remote workers.