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Universal associates are growing in popularity, or are they?

June 17, 2016

By Chad J. Davis, SVP of Marketing, FMSI

When discussing branch staffing plans for 2016 and beyond with financial services executives, we often hear they are utilizing universal associates (UA)—or plan to in the near future.  And it makes perfect sense, because in an evolving branch environment where many branches are requiring less traditional interactions, a UA staffing model is the ideal fit.

You get the best of both worlds with UAs—not only do you align every single branch interaction between account holders and highly-skilled sales and service representatives, you also potentially realize a reduction in staffing costs through front-line staff consolidation.  Unfortunately, many institutions are struggling to obtain these somewhat elusive benefits, causing others to tread lightly when considering the implementation of a UA program.

To get the most out of UA programs, credit union can consider making additional time and financial investments, including: finding the right employees, purchasing performance management technology, and hiring UA specific training firms.

What Exactly are Universal Associates?

In its truest sense, UAs (aka universal employees) are front-line staff members who can successfully handle the significant majority of all branch product and service interactions.  In actuality, the skill-sets vary widely for employees who are officially labeled UAs by financial institutions across the country.

From employees with only traditional teller experience to others with extensive service representative experience, we’ve seen the entire gamut of skill-sets when reviewing UA models from a number of different bank and credit unions.

Finding the Right Candidates

You may have some front-line staff members who can transition into UA roles, but in all likelihood many will not.  When searching for outside candidates for UA positions look for ones with any and all types of sales experience, but searching specifically in the retail industry (like the Apple Store) can be a great place to start.  These individuals are adept to working with the average consumer off the street and, oftentimes, are used to working on Saturdays.

Need additional help in finding candidates?  Some sophisticated staff acquisition technologies are available to help identify and screen potential UA candidates, like the firms that FMSI partners with.

Utilizing Sophisticated Performance Management Technology

Knowing exactly what a high-performing universal branch looks like remains a nebulous concept for many bank and credit unions.  Furthermore, managing an ongoing UA model can be next to impossible without a well-defined performance management process.  Since it’s all brand new territory when it comes to navigating the UA branch, a number of bank and credit unions are leaning on outsourced performance management firms, like FMSI, to help them establish and improve their UA branches.

For example, FMSI offers universal modeling to help with scheduling UAs to actual need—alongside other branch employees.  In addition, other critical real-time UA sales and service metrics are available through lobby management systems, like: cross-sell ratios, wait-times, assist times and product/service interaction splits.

If a bank or credit union is investing in a true UA model, they should expect to see a considerable uptick in sales and service performance.  Allow firms with the experience in UA models to help you establish and achieve the right goals.

Universal Associate Training

Ongoing and specialized UA training is a critical component of a successful program.  Firms like St. Meyer & Hubbard help bank and credit unions with sales and service training tailored specifically for UAs.

Understanding what it takes to transform front-line employees into high-performing sales and service professionals in a universal environment can be an arduous process.  Having the dedication and expertise of outsourced training professionals, can be a critical component towards a successful transformation of your branch staff.

The term universals associates is certainly gaining popularity in 2016, however, simply calling your tellers universal associates and slightly changing around your branch layout will likely lead to undesirable results.  Conversely, finding the right UA candidates, leveraging sophisticated performance management technology, and implementing UA specific sales and service training can lead to significant gains in branch sales, service and productivity.

Learn how FMSI can help with your universal associate programs.

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