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Where Are the Emerging Leaders in Banking?

Where are the emerging leaders in banking

I spoke at a banking association’s workshop for emerging leaders and the event planner asked me a great question, “Where are the emerging leaders in banking?” We discussed the fact that associations work hard to offer quality educational programs for emerging leaders. But attendance is typically lower than they expect. We wondered why this phenomenon is a problem across the nation.

I believe there are several reasons why the emerging leaders don’t participate in these special leadership development programs as much as they should. Below are some of the reasons I observe from our clients under $5 billion in assets:

Emerging leaders are working.

Emerging leaders are running the organization behind the scenes and don’t have time to get away. They occupy entry level, supervisory, and some middle management jobs. They are starting their families and juggling work, family, and community commitments.

There is no money in the budget.

Often there is no money in the budget to attend leadership development focused programs. They are an afterthought. While budgets for certain training to take place, they focus on the technical aspect of the employees’ jobs. The focus on the leadership development of emerging leaders comes second.

Perception that emerging leaders are not loyal.

Financial institutions have been burnt before. They develop a specific emerging leader and just when the employee is ready to take the new job, he or she leaves. The organization is left with no one to occupy the position of an employee who just retired. There is no successor, and they find themselves starting all over again.

Legacy employees don’t leave.

Reasons such as the economic environment, living longer, cost of health insurance, and others, means legacy employees continue to occupy their jobs. I call “legacy employees” those who have been in the same job or same organization for over 20 years and are past the full retirement age.

It starts at the top.

I recently spoke with a CEO who mentioned their institution’s board of directors is comprised of three directors over 60, one over 70, and three over 80 years old! If the Directors are not willing to leave their spots and allow a younger generation to take over, the rest of the institution will follow suit. Why do they not leave? In addition to the reasons stated above that apply to employees, the legacy directors may not fully trust the next generation to take over. When addressing banks, in many instances, these are family-owned and the founders cannot let go because they don’t have successors—or at least successors they trust to take the organization into the future.

The lack of leadership development for the emerging leaders presents a critical risk to community banks and credit unions today and something must be done to change this trend. Below are some ideas you can implement immediately to train the leaders of tomorrow:

Do implement a succession planning process.

The first step is to identify future leaders and successors of key positions in your institution.

Budget for leadership development.

Ensure you budget both for technical training as well as leadership development for the emerging leaders you identify through your succession planning process. In addition, budget for continued leadership development for your senior leadership.

Encourage emerging leaders.

The performance review process is the appropriate time to ask each employee if they aspire to positions of leadership in the future. They don’t necessarily have to desire a senior leadership role. Some of them may be happy to be a supervisor, team lead, or manager of a department. Others may aspire to a “C” level position (i.e., Chief Financial Officer, Chief Credit Officer, etc.).

Mentor future leaders.

Part of a strong Talent Management Program is to establish a formal or informal mentoring program both as you onboard new employees and then as you identify successors. Mentoring employees is part of leadership development.

Hold emerging leaders accountable.

It’s a two-way street. The current senior leadership who mentors and provides opportunities to the emerging leaders must hold them accountable too. The accountability comes in several ways. For example, ask them to share with others what they learned at workshops, seminars, and leadership development programs.

Send them to training.

If you are a senior leader, please send your emerging leaders to leadership development seminars, workshops, and conferences offered by your state associations or other professional institutes. Also, as they grow into their leadership journey, provide executive coaching opportunities so they continue to grow as a leader and learn to deal with special situations.

If you are an emerging leader, go!

If you have been selected to be a successor to a key leadership role or aspire to lead throughout your journey, you must take the time to attend these leadership development opportunities when they present themselves. It is on you to prove and demonstrate to the legacy leaders and board of directors that you can and will take the organization to the next level. Part of demonstrating your desire to lead is to work hard and be loyal to the institution. This is hard to do when the trendy thing to do is to leave a company for the next best opportunity after only a few years of employment. You need to allow your employer time to develop you and to also prove to you that they want you in the organization for the long haul.

So, to answer the question, where are the emerging leaders? If you are reading this article and are currently in leadership, I hope it inspires you to send your emerging leaders to leadership training. If you are an emerging leader, I hope this blog inspires you to go and attend every opportunity you get!

Struggling with succession planning? As always, we’re here to help.

7 Best Practices for an Ideal Community Bank Board of Directors

7 Best Practices for an Ideal Community Bank Board of Directors

As you set out to look for Board successors, consider these 7 best practices for an ideal community bank board of directors. As we conduct strategic planning sessions with community banks around the nation, we often hear the need for succession planning at the Board level. This need is so urgent that it becomes one of the institution’s top objectives for their strategic plan. But whether that’s your situation or not, these 7 best practices for an ideal community bank board of directors may help you:

Differentiate between “independent/outside director” and an “insider.”

The first step is to understand the difference between an “independent/outside director” and an “insider.” Outside directors are those who are not employed by the institution nor are a large shareholder. They can be a customer and can (and should) receive compensation for their Board service. An insider, on the other hand, is employed by the institution for their regular job or is a family member and part of the ownership. Ideally, in a community bank board of seven Directors (which is the minimum we recommend), you should have four outside directors and three insiders. With three insiders you can have the majority shareholder/owner, one family member, and the CEO of the bank.

Be open to inviting “independent/outside directors.”

Be willing to invite “independent/outside directors” to join your board who are not family members, nor owners, nor customers. These candidates are hard to find but they are the best suited for the Audit Committee Chair role. They bring a true objective perspective and have zero conflicts of interest. They will tell you the truth!

Avoid the risk of having other executives as directors.

It is common for small community banks to have more than one executive as Board directors. I strongly caution you against this practice as it puts the bank at risk in two ways: First, if you lose the executive, you will also lose a director. Secondly, if the executive has performance issues, you cannot discuss it with other directors without excluding that one director and that, at the least, can be awkward. At the worst, your bank keeps a bad performer which puts you at risk.

As a best practice, the President/CEO should be the only executive that is a director. If your bank has a separate CEO and President then, ideally, only the CEO should be on the Board. The President can also be on the Board but keep in mind he/she occupies an additional insider seat.

Pay your Directors well.

Directors of a bank have an enormous responsibility and risk. For this reason, you don’t necessarily compensate them only for the time they spend on meetings. Some institutions hold monthly meetings in addition to quarterly committee meetings. The Board package ranges from 100 to 300 pages, and it takes time to read and come prepared to the meetings. Most Board directors still run their own businesses or hold high positions of leadership. Therefore, it is fair to compensate them for their time, in addition to their fiduciary liability. If you want to attract the best board directors, you must compensate them fairly based on your asset size and complexity of your institution.

There are out outside organizations such as Bank Director that conducts in-depth Board compensation surveys that you may check out. You could also ask your peer bank colleagues if you need to review your Board compensation.

Clarify Directors’ roles and expectations.

The primary roles of directors are their fiduciary duty to enhance the shareholders’ value, provide strategic direction for the bank, and to protect the customers’ data and deposits by ensuring the bank is safe and sound. Board Directors can refer business to the bank but that is not their primary responsibility. Business development is a management responsibility and that is the primary function of business development officers.

Invest in Director training.

It is crucially important that you invest in director training and budget for it annually. There are conferences, webinars, and onsite training you need to provide to your directors to stay on top of regulation, cybersecurity, and risk management. There are also special certifications such as the Certified Community Banking Director offered by the SW Graduate School of Banking Foundation in partnership with the Southern Methodist University.

Consider establishing an age limit.

While it’s important to consider establishing an age limit, I am personally more interested in director engagement. If a director is actively engaged in the meetings and provides valuable insight, it doesn’t matter how old they are. Having said that, it is important to bring fresh blood and new perspectives to your Board of Directors as well as diversity of skills.

I hope these 7 best practices for an ideal community bank board of directors helps you in your quest for your directors’ successors. Struggling with your directors? As always, we’re here to help.

Books by Marcia Malzahn