A FINANCIAL INSTITUTION’S GUIDE TO UNIVERSAL ASSOCIATE
Who are universal associates? What does a universal branch look like? How can your branch adopt the universal banking model? Find the answers to these questions (and more) in this ultimate guide to UAs for financial institutions.
DEFINING THE UNIVERSAL BANKING MODEL
INSIDE THE INDUSTRY’S HOTTEST TRENDS
While universal associates (UAs) have been an up-and-coming trend the past few years, 2019 is shaping up to be the year that it shifts to a mandatory addition to any branch design project. With the steady decline in foot traffic, higher transaction costs and rising salaries, banks and credit unions have realized that the traditional branch model is rapidly becoming irrelevant—leading to a switch to Universal Associates as a proactive response to the most popular trends.
WHO ARE UNIVERSAL ASSOCIATES?
Whether you call them universal associates, universal tellers, or universal bankers, this role is best defined as an employee that is able to handle just about every type of transaction in the branch. Instead of specializing in one small area, a UA’s lack of specialization is precisely what makes them special. Since they’re not chained to a desk, office or teller station, a UA can roam through the branch freely to help clients with transactions and provide a more advanced level of service.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A UNIVERSAL ASSOCIATE
The UA role can vary from branch to branch, but the job responsibilities remain similar in the course of a day, a typical universal banker will provide customer service, greet clients, process basic transactions, open and close new accounts and even process loan applications. And regardless of the task or transaction they are completing, they always have one goal: to be advise their client.
- Typical Role Responsibilities:
Cross-sell all products
- Open different types of client and business accounts
- Handle the sale of complex products and services
- Provide superior customer and member services
- Conduct needs-based selling, thinking in terms of solving a prospect’s problem
- Initiate branch marketing efforts (ie: branch events)
- Support community programs
- Easily transition between tasks and responsibilities
- Perform any role within the branch: opening accounts, processing loans, teller transactions, etc.
HIRING A UNIVERSAL ASSOCIATE
When it comes to hiring the right people to act as your universal associates, the minimum skills and experience requirements of a traditional teller or associate are no longer enough. This new, advanced role comes with new and advanced responsibilities.
SKILLS & EXPERIENCE A UNIVERSAL BANKER SHOULD HAVE:
IDEAL TRAITS OF A UNIVERSAL ASSOCIATE:
- Not afraid to proactively sell and uncover clients’ needs to find the best solution
- Desire to make an impact in people’s lives
A COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS FOR UNIVERSAL ASSOCIATES
Universal Associates average an annual salary of $31,000 or $13.99/hr. (which is a significant jump from the typical teller salary of $23,000 or $10.76/hr.) However, while UAs earn a higher salary than tellers, the overall cost is on average reduced by 2 full time employees per location (salary and benefits), and there is less staff turnover.
BUILDING A UNIVERSAL BRANCH
While anyone can call their staff “Universal”, it takes the right branch design and technology to make this strategy truly successful.
Switching to the universal banking model is a holistic shift, and that pivot begins with a branch of the future design that creates an exceptional client journey from start to finish. To get universal right, you’ll need to make your teller line more accessible so staff can easily transition between roles, ensure associates are available as a first point of contact, make sure all of your spaces are inviting, and create consultation areas that are open, yet allow the right amount of privacy.
This sounds like a lot, but it really boils down to just a few key elements:
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A UNIVERSAL ASSOCIATE
- Teller Towers vs Teller Lines: Break free from these confining lines. Replace teller counters with teller towers equipped with cash recyclers and give clients a comfortable place to have advisory conversations, learn more about branch services, and complete standard transactions. Your universal associates can also deposit and withdraw cash from the cash recyclers stationed here, eliminating the need to move back-and-forth.
- Service Spots vs Cubicles: A Service Spot is a floating workstation that removes the barriers of the traditional banking experience and creates a more advisory, retail-feel to a branch. Use this space to create a comfortable, quick, private, and consultative area that can be placed anywhere in the branch.
- Flex Offices vs Closed Doors: Include flex offices in your universal strategy to give both your clients and staff a place to go when performing more complex transactions that require an additional level of privacy. Unlike traditional offices that are limited to one employee, flex offices can be shared by all members of your staff, getting repeatable use from your space.
- Community Rooms vs Empty Conference Rooms: Get involved with your community by giving them a space to gather for events like community hall. Not only does this align your brand with the needs of the people your branch serves, but it also gets people through your branch door who may not be current clients of yours. (Check out this case study on Rabobank to see how they transformed an empty conference room into an inviting community room that now serves as a staple piece in their community.)
- Discovery Area: Host all of your interactive digital displays in a centralized area of your branch where clients can learn about and engage with your products and services. Examples of digital signage that perform best in these areas include: digital screens, interactive kiosks and tablets and digital community boards.
INVESTING IN THE RIGHT TECHNOLOGY
REMOTE TRANSACTION ASSIST (RTA)
- Secure teller and client authentication
- Full account level view of client
- Receipt reprints
- Cash deposits
- Cash withdrawals
- Bill breaking
- Transferring money
- Paying loans or credit cards
- Cashier’s check printing
DIGITAL ADVISORY TOOLS
INVESTING IN THE RIGHT TECHNOLOGY
HOW LONG SHOULD THE UA TRAINING PROGRAM LAST?
The typical length of a universal training program ranges from 8 – 12 weeks. After the model is piloted, evaluation will surely follow. Career paths become more defined, technology is tested, and feedback is given for constant improvement. Because of this, consolidated ongoing training to “refresh” employees on the universal strategy, branch goals and potential modifications, if any, will be key.
WHAT SHOULD THE UA TRAINGING PROGRAM INCLUDE?
The Universal Associate training program can be broken down into three key areas:
FOCUS SHIFT TRAINING
INTRODUCING: DELIVERY DEFINED
Delivery Defined allows for your associates to get involved in the training process, compiles extensive research on your market and desired branch state, and packages up everything you need to flawlessly execute a universal staffing model–customized to your branch. This includes:
• Hiring process, including roles and profiles
• Talk tracks
• Sales playbooks
• On-site reources to train your staff
• Role playing and other exercises
• Branded playbook to map out every transition or situation that could happen (trust us, we’ve seen it all!)
If you’re interested in learning more about bringing the Delivery Defined program to your branch(es) to simplify the introduction of universal associates, click here to get in touch with a member of the CFM team.