Accenture Banking Blog

No matter what job you have, time is your most precious resource. For relationship managers (RMs) in commercial banking, this is certainly true.

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RMs are the backbone of a bank’s relationship with its customers, and if they don’t have the time to properly support these customers, the bank as a whole suffers.
That’s why we’ve published a report on empowering your RMs. While it outlines a number of ways to make RMs more effective, time is the crucial connector.

How relationship managers currently work

In order for RMs to do their job successfully, they must learn about their customers’ needs. However, even before COVID-19, 60 percent of banking sales leaders said their salespeople spend insufficient time with customers. In addition, 73 percent think the process used by their salespeople to uncover customers’ needs is ineffective. Now, with RMs unable to physically connect with their clients, there is even more pressure to ensure the connections they do make are both timely and valuable for clients.

RMs need to build deep relationships with clients, many of whom are facing an existential challenge in COVID-19. This presents RMs and banks with an opportunity to shift perceptions of the industry, which are often still negative after the 2008 recession, towards one of empathy, understanding and support.

While current needs are critical, it’s also important for RMs to anticipate future needs. Traditional ways of doing this—through meetings, phone calls, filling out paperwork and answering questions—are manual and time-consuming. Even worse, the information received is often qualitative in nature, preventing scalability and deeper analysis. The data RMs collect often forces them to make decisions on instinct and gut feelings, rather than concrete, provable metrics.

To add to this, learning about customers is only one component of an RM’s job. They still need to understand the bank’s offerings, find new customers, fill out internal paperwork and deal with often outdated and cumbersome tools. When an RM has to decide where to cut time in order to fulfill all of their tasks, their paperwork is mandatory and finding new customers is crucial for growth. The only real place they can cut from is proactively engaging with existing customers and anticipating their needs. The likely reductions in the overall RM workforce will put even further pressure on them to make every minute count.

COVID-19 and saving relationship managers’ time

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an interesting impact on relationship managers in that it has actually given them more time back by eliminating the demands of travel. Fewer in-person meetings and administrative tasks mean that they have actually managed to save some time during the pandemic. But is that time being used to its fullest extent? And who is defining what a relationship manager should be doing during and post-COVID—the bank or each individual RM?

Commercial banks can save an RM’s time in myriad ways, including artificial intelligence, streamlined and automated workflows, and effective communications and analytics tools. But implementing new technologies and creating workflow efficiencies are actually the easy part. The real question is: What should RMs do with their new freedom? If they have more time but are still making gut decisions not based on data, then that time hasn’t improved or changed anything.

Leveraging time for RM success

As banks grow and relationships with customers evolve, RMs will need to rebuild their skills and fundamentally change their work habits. New tools for data analytics and communications will require design, implementation and importantly, training—which is just one example of how to leverage saved time to make RMs more successful. The better RMs understand how to use these tools, the better they can support their customers. In the end, the goal shouldn’t just be to save time, but to fill that time with value-added activities that drive relationships and sales. Because the results can be significant.

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This graph highlights the value of an RM’s time. With more efficient ways of working freeing 15–20 percent of their time, they can develop personalized and relevant customer engagements to generate 10–15 percent more revenue, assuming a bank has a framework and tools to help them improve their ability to interact with clients.

If you knowingly were granted an extra year to live, what would you do with it? Would you sit on the couch and watch television? Or would you travel the world, spend time with your family and do things you never would have done otherwise? The point is that time is only as meaningful as you make it. For RMs in banking, time can be wasted or it can be leveraged to drive growth and success. It can be used to transform banks from cold, transactional organizations into personal partners where both RMs and customers succeed together. And at this critical time in our global economy, you could be saving a business.

Learn more by reading the full report: COVID-19: The empowered commercial banking relationship manager