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The Best Business Bankers
A couple of years ago I wrote about what is the most typical background for commercial bankers. It’s time to do the same for the business bankers. The two positions are not vastly different, but subtle themes do emerge.
• Sound judgment. All good lenders rely on judgment in assessing a prospect’s character and financial acumen, as well as the value proposition of the borrower and their product.
• Leadership. Strong business bankers are typically more low key and more consultative in their approach to the business. They show higher levels of emotional intelligence, empathy and insightfulness than the average banker, which makes sense. The most successful business bankers need to put themselves in their customer’s shoes and tailor their approach accordingly. They engage both their heart and mind in the relationship building and credit structuring processes.
• Relationship orientation. Expectedly, the best business bankers are highly relationship-oriented. They create positive impressions more easily than others and really care how they are perceived by the customer.
• Desire to please and “belong”. Typical high performing business bankers are thin-skinned and vulnerable. They don’t do as well as lower performers in accepting constructive feedback. They are often more similar to the customer base and less idiosyncratic than lower performers.
• Stability. High performers are more detail-oriented and even-tempered. They are not volatile or highly emotional.
• Self-motivated. A key characteristic for high performing business bankers is a strong, inherent drive. They would prefer opportunities to show initiative, self-reliance and original thinking, and are less interested in intensely directed structures. They want freedom to set their own goals and path to success, and, when left to their own devices, are highly effective and results-oriented.
• Do the right thing. Successful bankers do not respond well to intense time pressure; they fear it might interfere with their ability to develop the best solution for the client rather than the most expedient one. They avoid taking the traditional “used car salesperson” style and image by employing high-energy, aggressive and self-reliant behaviors. They employ negotiation skills and merit arguments rather than trite sales tactics.
• Persistence. Strong performers rarely give up. They focus on persistently pursuing and achieving challenging sales goals, and thrive over small victories of long-pursued targets. They have high self-expectations and develop their own discipline to achieve them, competing as much against themselves as against others in the team. They take pride in their commitment to the sales role and in making the hardest sales.
The characteristics described above are indeed characteristics. They are not related to work experience. The most successful bankers we have are those whose personality fits the needs-based, customer-centric, value-add, high-integrity approach banks generally employ. The technical aspects of the job can be learned; hiring the wrong personality cannot be fixed.
In summary, we should look for bankers who possess:
• Astute judgment
• Empathy and sensitivity
• Self-motivated and self-driven
• Disciplined, principled and methodical
• Optimistic, relationship-oriented
• Persistent, committed to their goals and focused on results.
Hiring people with the right aptitude is the best foundation for building a strong banking sales team, where bankers support each other, learn from each other and surpass goals through determination and discipline. Such teams will be successful in any area of the bank, and business banking is among the best entry points for this role.
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