Executive Banking School: An Antidote to the Silo Mentality

As retail banking evolves with ever-changing regulations, a greying leadership and growing online options for customers, one industry characteristic has remained unwaveringly true: many employees’ understanding of how a bank operates exists in a vacuum, often narrowly defined by their area of expertise. 

The CBA Executive Banking School provides an antidote to this stubborn silo mentality by equipping up-and-coming bank officers with the holistic perspective of retail banking required to effectively navigate industry shifts – no matter where they sit within a bank.

It’s just one of the benefits that sets this rigorous, boutique education program apart from others nationwide.

After the banking crisis hit back in the early 1990s, many banks jettisoned or scaled back their internal management training programs to help save money. Those programs often provided cross-trainings that gave employees a broader perspective of bank operations. Today however, retail bankers have less exposure to other business lines or opportunity to understand how each interrelates and contributes to the overall success of a bank. 

Staffers from varying businesses within the same bank are “all separate, usually housed in different parts of the country, so they never see each other. They don’t know anything about the rest of the firm,” says Gerald A. Hanweck, associate dean for graduate programs and a finance professor at the George Mason University School of Management in Virginia. “There have been many attempts to get integrated staff relationships so they can cross-market products, but it’s failed.” 

Bankers armed with a wide-ranging understanding of how a bank operates and what constitutes good leadership can more fully address customers’ needs, says Anita Gentle Newcomb, a banking consultant at A.G. Newcomb & Co. in Maryland.

As the industry grows more competitive, “you’ve got to be sharp and firing on all cylinders. It’s a strategic imperative,” Newcomb says. “Bankers have got to be much better at making sure that their people have been appropriately developed and have the tools and customer intelligence to be able to recognize (customer) needs, offer solutions and just ask for business,” regardless of an employee’s specific responsibility within a bank.

One way to achieve that is to educate bank officers not only about their role, Hanweck says, but also about alternative roles, who supports those and “how bank business is related to each of these.” 

Such an approach, one that essentially breaks down traditional silos, is at the core of the CBA Executive Banking School curriculum. Graduates of the exclusive program gain a comprehensive understanding of retail banking – and banking overall – as well as the critical skills to propel them into more complex leadership positions.

Newcomb stresses that professional development opportunities such as the CBA program are a sound investment for today’s banks – from small players to large ones. “It allows employees to hear from experts about all areas of a bank,” she says. “It just broadens their perspective and understanding of how it all fits together.” 

That was Christy Merecka’s experience at the CBA program. “You’re not just in your box, thinking about the things you need to do,” says the 2012 graduate, an assistant vice president of financial analysis at Frost Bank in Texas. “You’re thinking about what the bank needs to do and about the future of the bank.” 

While graduates such as Merecka may indeed return to a workplace environment with limited integration among business lines, they do so liberated from the silo mentality. It is a priceless perspective that transforms how they approach their work. And it’s a perspective the CBA program cultivates year after year as it continues to inspire the next generation of innovative leaders in retail banking.