Making Training a Top Priority at Citizens Bank

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Making Training a Top Priority at Citizens Bank

Tom Earley is the Senior Vice President and head of Colleague Development for Business Banking at Citizens Bank, which is part of Citizens Financial Group, Inc., one of the nation’s oldest and largest financial institutions, with $132.2 billion in assets as of Dec. 31, 2015. Headquartered in Providence, R.I., Citizens offers a broad range of retail and commercial banking products and services to individuals, small businesses, middle-market companies, large corporations and institutions.

Earley ensures the bank’s relationship managers have the skills needed to effectively serve the bank’s customers. He recently spoke with Omega Performance about how Citizens Bank’s training program affects business performance.

Q: What are a few things that you’re most proud about working at Citizen’s Bank?

Tom Earley: I’m very proud of our leadership, particularly in the business banking sector. We have some outstanding visionary leaders that understood the need to increase the business acumen of our relationship managers and our calling officers to help them bring value to the discussion when they engage customers. In order to get to that value, our leadership quickly understood that increasing business fluency and competency of our calling officers was primarily job one. What will make us stand apart is the rich interaction between our calling officers and our customers to provide solutions.

Q: So what is the impact of your calling officers using their training and immediately putting it into practice?

TE: Since our engagement with Omega Performance, we have heard of colleagues taking the Omega Performance modules, finishing up a module and immediately engaging a customer in a conversation applying the material they just learned. What’s so exciting for us is that they see the road relevance. They see the fact that the company has invested in their knowledge.

We have three basic work groups — relationship managers, business banking officers and relationship managers for our larger customers. We just finished some roundtables and some skills application labs with our relationship managers and business banking officers. Now, I have colleagues asking for more training. How often do you run into that where colleagues have gone through rigorous training for lenders and they’re asking for even more? So, they’re seeing value.

My leaders are now saying we have great people who are invested in their career and in our bank. This has been a win-win without a doubt.

Q: How would you assess your current situation regarding talent level in business banking?

TE: The competitive market for quality relationship managers is as great as I’ve ever seen in all my time in banking. The competition for talent is extraordinary. We choose to develop our colleagues so that they are on a clear path for increased competency, fluency and delivery. We welcome colleagues from other organizations. That said, we are fully invested in building the acumen and ability of our colleagues so that they can rise up through our organization.

Q: What’s your biggest challenge to getting the talent you have to make a deeper impact on the business?

TE: The biggest challenge that we have is our colleagues need patience for performance. I want colleagues to be excellent at their positions. And what happens is, we have to fend off competition because our colleagues are performing better in the market than others. In other words, when we increase their business acumen, we increase their ability to communicate and their ability to solve problems. My biggest challenge is that a competitor will come along, find out why we’re winning and they’ll try to pluck my colleague away. So as leaders, we need to continue to keep a clear path of progression and at the same time re-instill and reinforce performance. The market is very hot for talented bankers right now.

We’ve also had colleagues come back to us who chose what they thought was a greener pasture but choose to come back.

Q: Given the current situation in the financial services industry, why is it so important to invest in your talent?

TE: Clear responsibility. Clear accountability. Clear performance. Our job as leaders is to allow and to create an environment that where a colleague has an engagement with a customer that we do our level best to make sure it is underwritten in an outstanding fashion. The Omega Performance experience has helped us build the vocabulary between our underwriting and our sales staff.

Q: What were you looking for when you decided to choose a training partner?

TE: What the Omega Performance training has done for us is allow us to have deeper, richer conversations with our customers. The reporting, administration and the support we receive from Omega Performance has allowed us to deepen the business acumen of our calling officers and has led to significant customer interactions.

Q: It sounds like training isn’t just a one-time thing at Citizens Bank. It’s now part of your culture.

TE: Without a doubt. It’s the model of which our organization has chosen to present itself in the marketplace, both to the customer and to our colleagues.

Q: What were you looking for when you reached out to Omega Performance?

TE: One of the challenges that I have as the head of colleague development is keeping training at the forefront of our employees’ and managers’ minds every week. In a crowded agenda, my job is to make sure our training has high visibility and immediate feedback. The reporting includes all the data points that I would ever want, and I am able to use that to quickly help reinforce winners and help get members of our team who may be lagging up to speed. The reporting was crucial to me, and the details blew away our leaders. When I gave our leaders the results, they were able to provide instant feedback to our colleagues. That level of detail enabled us to be very successful right out of the gate.

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