Process Proficiency


Building efficiency one small win at a time

By Ryan Brogan

As a community banker, if you look around your organization, it’s virtually guaranteed that you’ll see the signs of project fatigue. Whether technology, regulatory or product related, initiatives seem to drag on for months and rarely live up to original objectives. Why do projects so often miss the mark despite the fact that everyone seems to be so busy?

A recent Cornerstone Advisors white paper, “Efficient Instead of Busy,” finds that, more often than not, performance is improved incrementally rather than through gargantuan initiatives. The following real-world productivity examples at community banks illustrate successful incremental productivity approaches better than any management theory can.

The Performance Measurement: Commercial loan packages per processing/document preparation training full-time equivalent staff position.

The Efficiency Challenge: As part of the commercial loan origination process at a $1.5 billion-asset community bank, nine separate forms were being generated. Form chaos led to keying errors, checkers checking the checkers, and, ultimately, turnaround times that were simply not competitive.

The Fix: A group of three rock star loan assistants identified redundant and outdated fields across all forms. A single, streamlined template for multiple loan types was then created using Microsoft Office’s basic field control and formatting functionality. Key fields such as customer name, tax identification number and collateral codes now only need to be entered once. App-to-close time improved virtually overnight, and the effort helped set the bank up for success when the time was right a few years later to move to a loan origination solution.

The Performance Measurement: Total head count supported per human resources and training full-time equivalent.

The Efficiency Challenge: Human resources department response times for internal clients and new-hire onboarding was bogged down by a rigid training schedule at a $2 billion-asset community bank.

The Fix: The human resources/training team focused on three relatively minor changes. First, they revised new-hire training practices to allow trainees to complete Web-based curriculum in their future work location (e.g., branch or contact center). In this way, predefined course materials could be interspersed with shadowing. With momentum from that quick win, the bank revamped performance appraisals from a monthly (based on employee anniversary date) to a biannual schedule, reducing administrative burden. Finally, outdated vacation and sick time policies were consolidated into a part-time-only structure that simplified tracking and reporting.

The Performance Measurement: Deposit accounts opened per platform full-time equivalent.

The Efficiency Challenge: With 100-plus branches cobbled together through multiple acquisitions, a more than $8 billion-asset community bank faced constant challenges with appropriate staffing levels across its retail network.

The Fix: Rather than trying to transform its entire network all at once, the bank focused on creating a staffing model to help market managers make informed decisions. Using core and human resources data along with industry benchmarks, the retail group created a simple database that was updated and monitored monthly. Requests for positions were backed up with data or denied. Variances were reviewed and best practices from outlier branches (also known as “positive deviants”) were shared and adopted.

None of these case studies in process efficiency involved two-year timelines or six-figure budgets. Although major initiatives are sometimes unavoidable, disciplined focus on small improvements paired with objective before-and-after measurement is the real key to transformation.

Ryan Brogan is a consultant at Cornerstone Advisors, a consulting firm in Scottsdale, Ariz.