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What do tellers do? Tellers have been through a lot of changes over the last century, even the last 10 years! From a purely transactional job function to a more advisory role, tellers now need to have more skills and provide more services to clients as they enter the branch. If your tellers aren't currently operating on the Universal Associate model—then it's time to start. 

Check out these rebroadcasted questions from executives during one of our webinars: 

1. Do you often see that financial institutions with the Universal model have their Universal Associates process loans?
Yes, but we typically find that Universal Associates handle loans that do not require any certifications (i.e. automotive, credit cards, personal loans). In most cases, if underwriting is needed, the branch team will have a hotline or available specialist to provide assistance.

Is centralized or decentralized lending better for implementing Universal Associates?
We typically find that Universal Associates models utilize centralized lending.

2. Is there a way to implement Universal Associates with centralized lending in a way where the branch staff connects the client with a Loan Originator who takes their application?
Absolutely. We’ve found a way to connect clients with experts in most financial areas – and it’s even possible when these specialists are located in a completely different branch!

3. What's the difference between the Universal Model and the traditional?
A client walks into the traditional branch and, maybe after waiting in line, a teller uncovers that they need assistance from a Loan Originator – we’ll call him Norm. Norm has a wealth of experience in the mortgage world and has helped countless families secure mortgage financing – but he covers many branches in fairly spread-out region of the branch network.

Potential Outcome #1: Norm isn’t at the branch today… and he won’t be back until next week. The client is left feeling frustrated by the lack of options presented by the financial institution they’re actively seeking help from, while the teller is stuck in a helpless situation – unable to provide helpful solutions while also being the “bearer of bad news”.

Potential Outcome #2: Norm isn’t at the branch today – but after a quick call to confirm scheduling, the teller shares that Norm is at a branch close by – and he’s happy to drive back to this location to help the client! Better solution for the client (if he or she has time to spare) – but definitely an extra cost to the financial institution who is covering expenses like salary or travel and fuel costs.

Potential Outcome #3: Norm is at the branch – but unfortunately, his schedule is completely packed from now until the branch closes at 5:00 pm.

None of the scenarios are ideal, but good news – all of these outcomes are completely avoidable. CFM supports a solution called Expert Nearby that uses video conferencing technology to simulate the efficiency and relationship-building of face-to-face interactions.  When a client has a transaction or need that the in-branch staff cannot complete, a specialized associate can help them remotely in a “Expert Nearby” room.

4. How should we schedule and rotate Universal Associates?
In most cases, you will need to evaluate two areas to determine what works best for your branch: cross-over capacity of current staff (i.e. tellers, platform staff, and managers) and the “actual” transaction volume per teller versus “capacity” transaction volume per teller.

5. How can you avoid deposit attrition when you implement Universal Associates?
Deposit attrition with Universal Associates hasn’t been a problem, as tellers typically don’t create or motivate additional deposit growth. To help increase deposits, Universal Associates should help strengthen the client to associate relationship and can even help clients on-board to direct deposit through more “hip-to-hip” interactions to ease the process.

6. Do we need to do goal setting and incentives a different way?
Not necessarily! In most cases, the goals and incentives are still aligned and typically do not need to be changed. However, if implementing Universal Associates is part of a complete transformation and shift in strategy for your branch, the goal plan may require a restructure; if you need help creating incentives to meet your initiatives, reach out to our team.

7. What should I look for when I’m hiring for Universal Associates?
Because the Universal Associate role is hyper-focused on the client experience, finding the right mix of personality and experience is crucial to effectively implement this staffing model.

If you’re looking at a resume, it’s great to see retail and consultative sales experience in addition to experience using cash recyclers and dispensers. Once you begin the interview process, look for positive, compassionate, outgoing candidates who aren’t afraid to proactively sell and uncover client needs to recommend the best solution. 

8. How can you establish a career path with the Universal Associate model?
In most financial institutions, there are two different paths available for Universal Associates to grow their careers: Branch Management or Marketing.

Universal Associates can work toward the traditional management roles like Assistant Manager, Branch Manager, Regional Branch Manager, and Assistant Vice President by mastering their skills, consistently meeting or exceeding their goals or initiatives, and becoming an on-boarding resource for new employees. The other path, Marketing, might not seem like a smooth transition, but actually the foundation of building great relationships with clients can transition into developing deeper connections to the community to drive both awareness and new business to their financial institution.