A good bank employee is hard to find.
That was the message Tuesday from community bankers and other industry representatives asked by Queens University of Charlotte to help shape a banking curriculum the school has on the drawing board.
The bankers’ input – viewed by Queens as crucial to the development of the banking program – offered a glimpse into the struggles that smaller banks face in making hires.
And the struggles, apparently, are widespread.
During a luncheon at the university’s McColl School of Business, which will offer the proposed banking concentration as part of a finance major, bank representatives said it’s getting harder to find job candidates who have experience in the industry. That’s a problem, the bankers said, because small banks don’t have big-budget training programs.
Also, they said, small banks don’t have large staffs, so they especially need employees who have more than one skill set.
“We find people that have extensive sales training, but they’re a mile wide and an inch deep,” Mark Williamson, president and CEO of High Point Bank, a community bank with a dozen branches, told the room of about two dozen attendees.
Williamson also complained about having a tough time finding employees with a “really good finance background.”
Some banking industry officials also said Tuesday that it can be a challenge to find workers who are self-starters.
Samuel Erwin, president and CEO of Greenville, S.C.-based The Palmetto Bank, which has about 17 branches, said he sees Queens’ proposed concentration as a win not just for community banks, but also large banks that have cut training programs.
Palmetto Bank has a training program, “but it’s very small,” he said.
Many banks just don’t have the resources to train workers “to a level that would make them proficient in the time amount that we have to get them proficient,” he said. “We can’t afford, necessarily, to have someone learning for five years. We need a return on that investment.
“The problem is we can’t afford to train them. The big banks aren’t training them. So where is that talent coming from?”
He said the banking concentration could meet “a need for the banking industry.” He called the concentration “a great idea.”
In creating the concentration, Queens is seeking to supply banks, particularly community banks, with interns and students who can be hired upon graduation, essentially creating a feeder program for the banking industry. Hugh McColl Jr., former chairman and CEO of Bank of America, after whom Queens’ business school is named, spoke at the luncheon, promising that the program’s graduates “will have good ethical training.”
“While we can’t teach judgment, we can certainly help people understand when they make a damn bad judgment,” McColl said.
Queens’ banking concentration is expected to have three courses. Queens’ faculty still needs to approve a curriculum. The school also needs to find someone to run the banking concentration. Its goal is to hire a person who’s leaving the banking industry.
After the event, McColl said he was “enthusiastic about the program, because I know it’s needed.”
Roberts: 704-358-5248; Twitter: @DeonERoberts
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