Making a big investment, Biddeford Savings Bank formally develops future executives from within
By Ed Avis
Nicole Dube says she always looks for ways to improve herself as a branch manager for Biddeford Savings Bank. She was handed a golden opportunity to do that last October—she became one of seven employees chosen for the Maine community bank’s new officer professional development program.
“We got an email explaining the program and were invited to an after-work meeting,” says Dube, who has worked at Biddeford Savings for 21 years, the last four in her current position. “I knew immediately it was something I wanted to apply and be interviewed for.”
The creation of the program at Biddeford Savings, which has 75 employees and $375 million in assets, was prompted by the realization that several key senior management positions would need to be filled in the next five or six years.
“Between now and the end of the decade we have a number of expected retirements in executive positions and important jobs just below the executive level,” says Charles Petersen, the bank’s president and CEO. “We have a lot of bright people working here, and we wanted to give them the opportunity to fully develop their skill set and leadership abilities so they would be positioned to be considered for some of these senior jobs.”
A future investment
The core of the officer training program is a partnership with Priority Learning Inc., a corporate training organization in South Portland, Maine. The series of training programs are designed to prepare employees for higher positions. For example, some employees participating in the bank’s program completed a series of sessions on supervisory skills, mastering conflict and building teams. Others attended a series to prepare them to coach their employees.
Dube says she learned valuable staff management skills in her first class. For example, she learned how to allow an employee to appropriately respond to constructive criticism. “We learned that we need to be patient and let them respond, and not to offer an answer for them. We’ve tried that and it works.”
The program, which will last about a year, is a $60,000 staff investment for Biddeford Savings. A key goal for the community bank is to expose its officers to executive-level skills and activities. For example, each employee in the class recently stood before the bank’s board of directors and gave a 10-minute presentation.
“They took it seriously and were exceptionally well prepared,” Petersen says. “I think the board appreciated seeing these folks.”
The seven employees in the officer-development class also serve on Biddeford Savings’ Community Reinvestment Act committee. The committee is chaired by the bank’s CRA officer, but the class is helping with CRA planning. Also, every member of the class is assigned a mentor from among senior bank leadership, with whom they meet every three to five weeks. As appropriate, the employees shadow various executives to experience the higher-level jobs firsthand.
“In addition, I sit down with them every few months over lunch and ask how it’s going and see if they have questions or ideas,” Petersen says. “A few weeks ago they asked for a project, or a series of projects, they could do once they’re done with the program. I asked them to present some ideas about that, and I’ll be curious to see what they will be.”
Whether the employees in the inaugural officer training program eventually become executives is uncertain, but Petersen is confident that Biddeford Savings will gain from the program in any case. “Will all seven stay at the bank? Probably not,” he says. “But we’ll reap the benefits of having them be stronger contributors to our team.”
The next likely step in Biddeford Savings’ plan to create a pool of future executives is a program to train newer employees.
“We have a wonderful group of bright young people who have been here two to six years who have great upside, so we’ve talked about a program that could develop that constituency,” Petersen says. “And this current group said they’d like to be mentors to them in the future. So talk about a win-win!”
Ed Avis is a freelance writer in Illinois.