By Van Natter Consulting Group

Congratulations!!! You Have Been Promoted…Now Fix This Team.
One of the most difficult expects of Retail Bank Management is when a manager must take on an underperforming financial location.  For some, this has become a specialty, but it can be quite daunting for most managers.
So how do managers decide where to begin making changes and what changes will make the most impact to improve the team’s performance?  Remember, these managers are responsible for ensuring the location is profitable, customer-friendly, and has an enjoyable work environment.  But how do you find what changes need to occur, and how do you prioritize them?
Over my 16 years of Retail Banking Sales Management in Indiana, Connecticut, and New York City, I gained a reputation for transforming underperforming bank locations into top performers.  Allowing me to move from my first locations in Indiana with $30 million in deposits and a team of 5 bringing in around $5 million annually, to my final corporate role where I managed 2 locations in New York City with a combined $1.2 billion in deposits and a team of 27 bringing in around $36 million annually on average.
To accomplish this recognition by using a three-step process to aid in my decision-making process.  I started by gaining an understanding of the team’s current performance data and then compared it to other similar locations.  I then use observation to understand how the team’s behaviors connect to the data.  Finally, I use an interconnection grid to evaluate my options before rolling out the new changes to the team and management.Creating Relationships- A leader’s most important role is to build a strong relationship with their team and among the team members. This relationship should be based on 3 forms of trust creating open communication and acceptance of coaching:

Using Data to Compare a Location to its Peer Group

The first step is to review the location’s performance data before entering the banking center.  Then compare that data with other sites with similar traffic, employee size, and markets.   Doing so allows you to make general observations and conclusions based on the areas that need improvement.  Obtaining this data should be easy as most banks gather this information for managers.  If your bank does not automatically provide you with the data, just ask for it because senior management is receiving it.  First, however, you need to know how to interpret the data and understand what information and conclusions can be gathered.  You also need to compare the location’s efficiency to the other locations to see where it is succeeding and where there is a potential for improvement.  Typical reports will show how the locations compare, during a set time period, in the areas of; deposit and loan growth, customer service, net customer growth, and P&L performance.  This information will provide detailed insights regarding past performance.  Still, they do not give the manager an understanding of the reasons for the past poor performance, only that there was a poor performance.  The next step is to add your observations to the data to understand the areas you need to improve fully.

Observation Provide Clarity on the Behaviors to the Data

The second step in the process is to observe the behaviors that take place in the new location.  This allows you to see what actions/behaviors are occurring (sales process, employee/customer interactions, and employee/employee interactions).  While observing your new team, look for things that could connect the actions/behaviors to the performance data.  While you do this, view the actions without bias or planning to turn your new team into your last team.  You should recognize that each location has different team members and customers, so you should expect differences.  Careful observation will provide insight and lead to discovering the needed improvements.  For example, each employee will have different strengths and weaknesses while some will excel in customer service, others in sales, and some will excel in both.
A common mistake made at this stage is to immediately start making changes to the current process.  But hold off until you can gain your team’s trust and treat the problem with a holistic approach.  Since this is your first week with your new team, take the time to get to know each team member and let them get to know you.  Remember that at the same time, as you are evaluating your new team, they are assessing and forming opinions of you.  And immediately coming in and pointing out their problems does not build trust or a favorable view of you.  Now is an opportunity for managerial restraint and growth as you may observe a different approach or action working successfully at the location you have not seen/used before.

Using an Interconnection Grid

Now that you have interpreted the data and understand how the actions/behaviors relate to the data, you can formulate a plan for the change.  Something that I have always used in an interconnection grid.  I find it helpful when I have a group of issues that need to be resolved, and I want to see if resolving one issue will influence a change in other issues.  To help explain what I mean, I will use a simple example to show how this works.  Let’s say you have uncovered that the new location has high customer turnover, a low number of new customers, low production, unsatisfied customers, and low employee morale.
The 1st step is to rename the issues into action statements, as seen below.
Then apply the action statements to a grid with each one across the top and down the left side, as shown below.
Finally, start with the first issue in column A and then compare how correcting that issue will affect each problem in the first row.  While doing this, make a mark inside each box that you feel would be improved if column A’s action was your focus.  As shown below:


As can be seen by the grid, if you improve employee morale, all other issues improve.  Likewise, focusing on customer satisfaction improves all actions except employee morale.  While a focus on increasing production really changes only production and possibly new customers, but does not help customer service, customer turnover, or employee morale.

Without this process, many Sales Managers would come into the location and focus on only production or solely on customer satisfaction.  This would be understandable as their boss most likely told them that sales and customer service must be improved when they took on the locations.  But as shown by the grid, the best place to start is to increase employee morale.  Happy employees lead to happy customers who don’t leave, do more business with you, and refer new customers, leading to increased sales productivity.


By following these simple steps, you too can become recognized in your corporation as an expert in turning around underperforming locations, and who knows how far that can take you.  Just remember to start by gaining an understanding of your new team’s current performance data and then compare it to other similar locations.  Then use observation to understand how your team’s behaviors connect to the data.  And finally, use an interconnection grid to evaluate your options before rolling out the new changes to the team and management.


Good luck, and I wish you much success.

Allen Van Natter


Van Natter Consulting Group

Companies we have helped unlock their growth