Technology and convenience drive trends in education and training
By Andrea Knotts Bona
Community banks are operating in regulatory and technology environments that demand high levels of constant education and training; at the same time, however, their employees have less and less “down time” to obtain the training to keep the bank competitive. The “Catch 22” situation drives education providers, such as ICBA, to change and evolve to give community banks the education-options training they need in delivery channels that don’t overwhelm their employees.
More than 38,000 community bankers took advantage of ICBA’s educational offerings in 2013 to enhance their ability to better serve their customers. ICBA offers 95 conferences, certification programs, audio conferences, webinars and classroom seminars across the country, as well as more than 300 online courses, an area that is a welcome alternative for banks whose employees do not have the time for off-site training.
It’s all about time
The growing trend in education is more succinct training options, including online and webinars, where participants do not have to commit large blocks of time. One of the biggest training challenges to community banks is timing, community bankers say.
“It is two things, the relevance of the course and how long it takes to train,” says Jasna Penich, chief financial officer and executive vice president of $886 million-asset Malaga Bank F.S.B. in Palos Verdes Estates, Calif. “We all wear many hats at the bank, and it’s hard to segregate out long blocks of time for training. We do better with more frequent training for shorter periods of time. Everyone is moving away from daylong seminars to webinars.”
However, some courses require extra time commitment; for instance, all Malaga Bank employees are required to take a course on avoiding sexual harassment every two years, and it is a two-hour course, Penich says.
Another area of education that is important for community banks is training to stay compliant with state regulatory issues. During the last five years, state community banking associations have seen an increase in the demand for regulatory education. “Community banks rely on their state community banking associations to provide education on state banking regulations,” Penich says.
“Webinar courses and online education make it easier to cost-effectively train more people, and that is huge for us,” says Rebeca Romero Rainey, chairman and CEO of $187 million-asset Centinel Bank of Taos in Taos, N.M. “[Online] education fast-forwards our learning curve, leveraging technology to make it easier to access [courses] and more affordable,” she adds.
Another benefit of technology is leveraging one webinar to train many people. “I don’t think people realized the value of online training,” says Mike Ellenburg, president of $361 million-asset First Southern State Bank in Stevenson, Ala., who serves as this year’s ICBA Education Committee chairman. “We will put a course on a big screen and train five to eight people at once. It has opened up people’s eyes to doing the training inside.”
Diving right in
Technology isn’t the only change in professional education. “During the last five years the need has grown for more employees within the bank to be subject-matter experts,” says Romero Rainey. “Training dollars are spread out over every single individual in the organization to make sure that knowledge is deep.
“Community banks rely on their state community banking associations to provide education on state banking regulations.”
—Jasna Penich, Malaga Bank
“We do a little bit of everything, so we need to know all sides of delivering products to customers. From a regulatory to a compliance perspective, we have it taken care of. Finding the time for education is a constant struggle. We have created more requirements for people to have a greater depth of knowledge.”
One way community banks are ensuring that they get the most for their education dollar is using community bank-specific content providers. It is important to make sure the education is cost-effective and efficient. “[At Centinal] we count on ICBA to get what we need from a good quality product. … I never have to wonder if this is from a community bank perspective; I know it is for a community bank audience. It helps me filter out whether the course is appropriate for me or not,” Romero Rainey says.
“[Online] education fast-forwards our learning curve, leveraging technology to make it easier to access [courses] and more affordable.”
—Rebeca Romero Rainey, Centinel Bank of Taos
For a community banker, it is all about relevance when it comes to education. “ICBA is focused on community banks; we didn’t renew several other course providers because they didn’t focus specifically on community banks. We relate more to the way the training is done at ICBA,” Penich says.
Malaga Bank has been relying on ICBA’s education resources for more than 10 years. “The bank uses many sources for education, but what they appreciate the most about ICBA is that the training is cost-effective, easy to administer and follow up, and has good topics,” Penich adds.
Andrea Knotts Bona (firstname.lastname@example.org) is ICBA’s vice president, marketing.