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McColl: Smaller banks need more access to talent

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    Hugh McColl Jr. on:

    • The health of Charlotte’s banking industry: McColl says Charlotte’s banking industry is doing well, and that the large banks are adding jobs.

    “You can’t tell it, because all that gets publicity is when they cut jobs. They need people to make new loans and to build the company. And then we’ve got a lot of smaller banks that are doing well. I think we’re going to continue to have formation of new financial institutions.”

    • Why banking is a good profession: “You get to participate in the economy both directly and indirectly. You’re furnishing the fuel to run the engines of the economy on. It’s a service profession, not unlike — this might sound crazy — being a doctor or an attorney.”

    • His aspirations early in his career: McColl described himself as “a man who never wanted to be an expert at anything. I wanted to be a president. I wanted to run the bank. So my goals were to learn all about it so I could run it.”



Hugh McColl Jr. says smaller banks are having a tough time attracting skilled employees compared with their bigger peers.

The former chairman and CEO of Bank of America hopes to help do something about that. He’s throwing his support behind a proposed banking concentration at the Charlotte business school that bears his name.

Queens University of Charlotte’s McColl School of Business is considering creating the concentration as a way to supply community and midsize banks with trained workers for bank jobs, especially those in management and commercial lending.

Starting in the fall, Queens will launch a Bachelor of Business Administration degree program, offering majors in accounting or finance. As part of the finance major, the university is proposing the banking concentration.

“We know that one of the problems of our community banks ... is trying to get enough trained people to come to work for them,” McColl said. “What we’re trying to do at McColl school is to provide a major, or a course of study, that prepares people to be a commercial banker.”

Queens isn’t developing the curriculum on its own. Rather, it’s leaning heavily on the banking industry to help it shape the course offerings.

The university has invited bankers from across the region to attend a Wednesday luncheon designed to solicit their feedback on what should be taught in the concentration, which will have three courses.

McColl, who is among the luncheon’s expected participants, already has thoughts on what the concentration should accomplish.

McColl said many business schools’ courses are focused on corporate finance and their graduates are bent toward investment banking. In contrast, he said, Queens’ goal is to create a curriculum that prepares students for retail banking jobs.

Ronald Shiffler, dean of the McColl school, said adding a banking concentration at Queens makes sense.

“Charlotte’s a banking city,” he said. “It seems like we ought to have a special concentration in banking.”

The university is considering having the curriculum mirror the type of management-development training that banks provide new hires.

The aim is for the concentration to make graduates attractive for full-time employment with banks. But Queens is also hoping the banking concentration helps its students land internships with banks inside and outside the Charlotte area.

Banks who partner with the university and help craft the curriculum stand to gain not only trained workers but also individualized Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. market reports — which Queens students would produce — specifically for their banks. Queens is also considering holding an annual half-day banking symposium, featuring an economic forecast, for top management at banks.

Shiffler said Queens, through the concentration, is hoping to replicate a program that was launched in 2006 at Georgia Southern University when he was a dean of the business school there. BB&T Corp. donated $1 million to the Georgia school to create an endowed chair in banking, he said.

The school hired Edward Sibbald, a former banking executive, to run the banking program and create the curriculum.

Sibbald, who is still the BB&T executive in residence in banking at Georgia Southern, said each of his classes have about 25 students on average. Through the banking program, Georgia Southern has developed close relationships with the banking community, Sibbald said.

“It’s given our students ample opportunities for internships in entry-level job positions,” he said.

Shiffler said the banking concentration would offer training that many U.S. college students don’t have access to. Bank-training programs are provided by specialized banking schools in the U.S., including Louisiana State University, he said. But such banking schools are used primarily by people who are already working for banks and seen as rising stars in their companies, he said.

Meanwhile, he said, many mid-tier and small banks must spend the first year of a new worker’s employment teaching the employee about how a bank operates. The goal of the proposed banking concentration at Queens is to provide banks with employees who, from their first day on the job, have an understanding of how banking works.

“We will be trying to give them more basic skills,” McColl said.

Queens would not be the only university in Charlotte to provide banking-related classes. For instance, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Belk College of Business offers a finance major that features courses in commercial bank management and money and banking.

Daryl Kerr, associate dean for undergraduate programs at the Belk school, praised Queens’ banking concentration.

“I’m glad they’re doing that,” he said. “The more the merrier.”

Gina Howard, spokeswoman for Charlotte Regional Partnership, said Queens’ proposed concentration is good for Charlotte.

“It’s great that they’re offering this program, because it will add to an already robust workforce in financial services,” Howard said. The Charlotte area already has a “very strong talent pool in financial services,” she said. “We welcome anything that would make us have a more skilled workforce, and this would.”

Nathan Batts, senior vice president and counsel for the North Carolina Bankers Association, called it “a very savvy move on the part of Queens University. “I could see how this type of training could be looked at by some other universities.”

Work remains before the Queens banking concentration is launched.

Once the curriculum is determined, Shiffler said, Queens’ faculty would need to approve it.

Also, Queens has to hire someone to run the concentration, and its hope is to find a banking executive who might be leaving the industry.

But first, Queens needs to hear from bankers Wednesday. The feedback that Queens gets from the industry at the luncheon will be crucial to the development of the concentration, Shiffler said.

“What we need is a sign from the banking industry that they think this is a good idea,” he said.

Roberts: 704-358-5248; Twitter: @DeonERoberts
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