Becoming a branch manager in a bank or other financial institution requires much more than the ability to crunch numbers. To succeed, you must also have strong sales, people-management and customer-service skills.
"Branch managers' primary management function will be staff management, customer service and business development," says Douglas Rickart of Robert Half International in Minneapolis.
Diane Williams, director and learning consultant for the American Bankers Association, says many branch managers get heavily involved in sales, helping to bring in new business and to build and maintain customer relationships. Branch managers deal with everything from security issues, such as opening the vault in the morning or locking it at night, to customers who are upset about overdraft charges or a loan denial. The banking industry is heavily regulated, but managers can learn its rules, says Williams.
Those with the right mix of education, skills and experience will find ample opportunities in the field of branch management. With banks now open longer hours, including later in the evening and on weekends, and with branches now inside supermarkets and other stores, there is plenty of room for growth and advancement.
"The banking industry is very strong," says Rickart. "New banks are opening, and existing banks are expanding their branch networks. So banking in general has very strong job prospects today and in the foreseeable future."
John H. Jordan, president and CEO of The Community Bank of East Tennessee, agrees. "Banks are branching at an unprecedented rate," he says. "The opportunities are there for individuals with the desire to work. Also, the future prospects are excellent to move into higher positions within the organization if they wish and perform well as branch managers."
Community vs. Big Banks
The size of the bank determines the responsibilities of a branch manager, says Rickart. In a community bank, the branch manager is typically responsible for all aspects of the branch, including tellers, personal bankers, customer service and commercial lending. A branch manager in a bank with assets greater than $1 billion has similar responsibilities but does not deal with commercial lending, focusing instead on retail customers.
At branches of The Community Bank of East Tennessee, for example, which has $200 million in assets, branch managers are encouraged to think of the business as their own. They are responsible for managing their people, developing their business and maintaining the profitability and growth of that business, says Jordan. His bank will hire recent college graduates or those interested in a bank management career with the right education and background and train them for at least a year in the bank before giving them a branch to run. The college degree can be in any field, and the typical starting salary is $30,000.
"They manage the sales and service aspects of the business," says Jordan. "This will include people and finances, and we move managers from within the organization. As with any job, the biggest challenge is people. They have to make sure their branch people are present and motivated for sales and service."
Skills for Success
To succeed, branch managers must have excellent business-development skills and a proven ability to develop a team, says Rickart. Leading the pack in loan generation and deposit growth will place someone in a sound position to grow into a management position, he says, but the best candidates are also able to motivate and mentor others.
Rickart recommends a branch manager have at least five years of banking experience, while Williams says prospective managers with a bachelor's or master's degree, along with relevant management or financial experience in other industries, can learn the tricks of the trade.