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What's happened to the banking profession?

The Banking Profession has changed immensely over the last 30 years.

Indeed, with the reforms of the 1980's in Australia to open our domestic banks to foreign competition (among other changes such as the floating of the dollar & technological advancement) - all major Banks started their journey to sales focused businesses. This shift, combined with the fall out from the GFC and the rapid advancement (rightly) of gender equality, has led (arguably) to the greatest loss of knowledge & experience across a profession since industrialisation as the 'old men' left the proverbial buildings. This is not a criticism but a statement of fact.

I started my Banking career in 1997 after nine years of part & full time work in retail & hospitality roles combined with some tertiary study and a legal services clerkship. These roles taught me the essence of customer service, the importance of presentation (personal and product), a respect for attention to detail & a reverence for the experience and knowledge of 'old hands'.

When I commenced in Banking I was afforded time to learn - formally through training but, moreover, informally through mentors with deep experience who cared passionately about the advancement of new staff who had been entrusted to them. I was encouraged to share my failures & learnings just as much as my successes. I was spoken to directly and (yes) forcefully when I made the same mistake more than once - particularly when it impacted on the service experience of a customer.

Bit by bit I was offered more authority. My first management role came with an Authority to Lend a customer $10,000 without security. I made some bad decisions - not because I didn't understand risk but because I hadn't really learned how to say "sorry, but we can't help you with that." I soon learnt that a promotion was not coming my way until I'd mastered that skill.

As I changed roles and my customer base became more sophisticated I was constantly challenged to develop both my technical finance skills and my relationship/people skills. Wherever I looked there was an experienced, knowledgeable, trustworthy, caring & passionate person (yes, at that time typically a man) to guide and mentor me in the next steps.

Everything I did was subject to review & oversight from someone with more experience, knowledge and wisdom than me. Personal accountability, with support, was the order of the day.

Of course the world has moved on. Banking in particular continues to evolve & adapt at a pace not seen since Giovanni Medici established his bank in Italy in 1397. Automated financial algorithms have replaced many human decisions - particularly at the lower range of funding. Face to face interviews have succumb to Application Forms and Online communication. Short term sales & revenue (outcomes) supersede long term role tenor (effort). Again, this is not a criticism but a statement of fact.

These industry changes are simply the evolution of any business to stay relevant in an attempt to compete in a commercial, capitalist environment.

But as with any change there are risks & opportunities.

Internal to the industry the key impact/risk has been the loss of long-term, career Bankers with deep commercial & life experience at the front line of customer engagement. This in turn has exposed Banks to increased operational risk & compliance costs as teams of individuals are required to create, implement and monitor processes which were previously inherent in the experience of the workforce.

Externally these changes have created the opportunity for the evolution of financial intermediaries (Commercial Brokers & Fintechs in particular). Often, SME customers now seek out the expertise, knowledge & guidance of a Commercial Broker. Increasingly, Commercial Brokers now own the Banking "Relationship" and simply use the Banks as product providers.

Banking is a dynamic, exciting & fulfilling profession. There is never a dull moment. The pace of change is enormous. There are hundred and thousands of awesome people trying their best to do the right thing in an industry which does not stand still for a single minute let alone a day.

My role, and the role of my generation in Banking, is to ensure we take the best bits from the 'old world' - the mentoring, support, teaching, guidance, personal accountability, encouraging openness in failures & mistakes and then learning from them, the customer service ethos, respect for experience - and embrace the opportunities (and boldly call out the risks) from the 'new world'.

This, in my humble view, has to be the future if Banking is to remain a Profession for another 600 odd years.

#creditskills #cashflow

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