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TD Magazine Article

Banking on Employee Development

Financial institutions adopt innovative TD practices as key differentiators.


Thu Jun 15 2023

Banking on Employee Development

The BEST Awards recognize organizations that demonstrate enterprise-wide success as a result of employee talent development. The winners use learning as a strategic business tool to get results. View the entire list of 2023 BEST Award winners.

Financial institutions adopt innovative TD practices as key differentiators.


For companies in the banking industry, relationships differentiate competing businesses. "The financial services industry has a fairly commoditized product offering, which means we're only as strong as the relationships we have with the people and communities we serve," explains Rob Phillips, chief learning officer at M&T Bank, headquartered in Buffalo, New York.

Looking to elevate their companies and upskill their employees, several financial entities implemented cutting-edge L&D programs. "Our clients put their trust in us to manage all facets of their finances," says Hope McAllister, executive vice president of HR at Busey in Champaign, Illinois. "A key aspect of that management is investing in our associates through talent development and training programs."

TD as a mindset

At Mountain America Credit Union in Sandy, Utah, TD leaders shifted from reactive to proactive L&D thinking, mapping emerging and current business needs "to seize the opportunity to align TD with business strategy and outcomes," says Aaron Brown, vice president of TD. "The TD team approached all of our people development initiatives with a business-first focus. We learned what the pain points were for strategic business priorities, then successfully linked development initiatives to help solve those business gaps and alleviate pain."

Similarly, at M&T Bank, TD takes a "first-team" approach to better align employee responsibilities with the bank's mission, prioritizing collective efforts at the leadership level and creating individual team road maps aligned to the organization's strategic imperatives, Phillips explains. The result has been increased volume and efficiency while focusing resources "where they would have the greatest organizational impact," he says.

Coaching and leadership

Mountain America's TD team partnered with the cross-functional leadership council to institutionalize coaching across the organization, designing an internal coaching certification program. In an innovative final activity prior to certification, participants engage in behavior-based, real-life coaching sessions, which the company records for assessment. "We ended the year with 187 participating employees," says Brown. "We have heard many stories of how team members and leaders have been impacted by adopting coaching into their daily work routines."


Coaching and mentoring are likewise part of the L&D portfolio at QNB Finansbank, headquartered in Istanbul, Turkey. The L&D team created a coaching and mentoring center for managers and manager candidates. Internal coaches work at different departments of the bank to render services. L&D manager Yağmur Tosyalı emphasizes the leading roles played by end-to-end design of development programs, sustainability enabled through proper planning and methods—from needs analysis to the assessment phase—and the support given to leadership programs through coaching and mentoring.

M&T's TD team prioritized managers as part of its new program, overhauling its method for developing new managers, says Amber Crossett, learning delivery manager. The team streamlined and scaled new manager curriculum with a redesigned, immersive learner experience. "We prepared 586 new managers to better lead their teams and positively reinforce our company culture," Crossett states.

To ensure more consistency, M&T aligned its L&D strategy around eight leadership competencies, creating "a universal language of leadership" and "a unified learning experience," explains Nate Gulley, leadership innovation manager. "Every L&D program and enterprise-wide training is now rooted in our leadership competencies," so employees have a shared understanding of their journey as leaders and future leaders.

Adapting to changes

Busey implemented its newest development program, Thrive, to meet "the changing needs of our associate base," says Marie Polk, assistant vice president and director of associate development. Participants engage in monthly one-hour virtual sessions, with prework to introduce core concepts, in-session activities for social learning, and postwork for knowledge retention, says Sam McCullough, associate development specialist. TD selects diverse topics to engage associates, and associates choose sessions based on their development goals.

"Thrive has been incredibly successful, with overwhelmingly positive feedback to date, resulting in over 1,500 hours of training, engaging 44 percent of our workforce," McCullough reports. "Each live session is available to our entire workforce and focuses on a new concept."


"The support and attendance of leaders, combined with the program's executive sponsorship from our chief of staff and director of HR, have been critical to Thrive's success," says Polk. "Our TD initiatives are so successful because they are publicly supported and promoted from the top."

Recognizing the constantly evolving landscape, QNB Finansbank debuted a learner experience and projects team to monitor L&D subjects and opportunities, including learning methods, and to launch new projects in areas of development, such as digital literacy.

Mountain America adopted new modalities and technology solutions, including microlearning, due to an increase in remote workers. Rather than delivering compliance training via traditional 40-minute e-learning sessions, the TD team offers training via chat. "We can break an entire course into daily or weekly lessons, where only a few questions are posed," Brown states, and learners consume content in bite-size chunks.

Targeted training

Huntington Bank, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, blended its talent management and L&D teams into talent development, one collaborative team responsible for employee experience and development. "We put internal organizational emphasis on colleague onboarding and early-career development to make Huntington the best place they've ever worked," explains Chief Talent Officer Nichole Kneedler.

"Our onboarding team worked closely with our IT, call center, and HR data and analytics teams to identify and prioritize concerns for new colleagues in their first seven days," Kneedler adds. The onboarding team made "quick and meaningful fixes that resulted in a 42 percent reduction of call volume for new hires needing assistance in their first seven days." TD stretched the new-hire experience over the first year, "with connection moments for colleagues based around the hallmarks of Huntington culture: diversity, equity, and inclusion; well-being; and innovation."

Huntington Bank also developed the Momentum program, which focuses on hiring and developing diverse talent, to better represent the communities it serves and to increase diversity of thought. Momentum introduces diverse college students to banking and readies them for internships, says Kneedler. "We have expanded our diverse focus on intern talent to include five specific regional two-year internships held for diverse colleagues in some of our fastest growing markets," she reports. As a result, the company consistently reaches 65 percent ethnic diversity of interns.

At Rally Credit Union in Corpus Christi, Texas, the TD team prioritized teller training, creating a career-pathing initiative that increases the number of tellers the company trains. "These employees are the face of our organization," says Stephanie Horvath, vice president of training. The program exposes new tellers to the fundamentals of service standards, cash handling, and soft skills training via virtual and learning management system instruction, web-based modules, and coaching from subject matter experts.

Due to the program, "We have seen a 75 percent increase in attendance in our classes," says Horvath. "These numbers are directly tied to our business metrics and have a positive impact," including increased job retention numbers, fewer teller errors, growth in loans, and a 20 percent increase in sales of checking and savings accounts.

As for the L&D management team at QNB Finansbank, it works hard to offer a sustainable and personalized development program for employees. The Finansçı 360 Development Program provides programming based on end-to-end design, focusing on industry, risk, and customer relations. The team aims to ensure sustainability in customer satisfaction and form long-standing relationships by hitting the right spots while exploring customer needs.

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