Who is the face of your financial institution?

by Jack Farnham

It’s a common figure of speech to call someone the “face” of an organization. Typically that person is the leader of the organization or someone who has reached unparalleled excellence. Tom Brady is the face of the New England Patriots. Serena Williams is the face of women’s professional tennis. Pope Francis, Janet Yellen, Warren Buffet, and of course the face of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg.

At financial institutions focused on serving local communities, many presidents or branch managers consider themselves to be the “face” of their organization. While that is often true, many customers of the institution never meet these people. This is especially true for someone walking into a branch for the very first time.

I recently stopped into a community bank to see what types of accounts they offered. The branch was fairly busy, and the only person available was a teller at the counter. I walked over and asked her about the bank’s account. Without saying anything, she turned to look for something, and after a few moments of shuffling paper handed me a brochure. “These are our accounts. You’ll need two forms of ID and have to deposit $100 to open the account.”

She then explained I would be considered a new customer for 60 days, and that my checks would be held for 10 business days. She also said I didn’t want to overdraw the account, because “they” would “hit” me with a $35 fee. She then invited me to take the brochure.

I didn’t meet the president of the bank. Nor the branch manager. I only met this one teller. To me, she was the “face” of this institution… And she talked about all the negatives of the account before inviting me to leave.
Often the highest expectations in a financial institution – and matching training and recognition – are reserved for employees who establish product relationships with customers: new account representatives, branch managers, lenders, or management.

The reality is everyone who works at a financial institution is the “face” of the organization. Leaders and organizations that recognize this ensure every employee is provided the tools and training to respond appropriately when “faced” with these opportunities.

A few years ago at another busy branch, I stood in the lobby deciding where to go. A man in a bank-logo shirt approached me and asked if I was looking for someone. I replied that I wanted to find out about the bank’s accounts, and he smiled and said, “I can’t help you with that exactly, but have a seat and I’ll find someone who can. You’re going love our bank. We have the best accounts around and the people here are so nice.”

I later learned the man was the bank’s courier/facilities/maintenance person. An important role for sure, but not a role typically associated with being a customer’s first interaction with the organization. Yet, for me, he was the first “face” of the organization and provided a positive experience.

Are the faces of your organization prepared to do the same?

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