Talent and innovation: the future of banking

By Scott Anderson
ABA Viewpoint

As I near the end of my time as ABA’s chair—this is my last column for the magazine before I pass the gavel to Dan Robb of Missouri—I’d like to look to the future with two of our most important forward-looking challenges: talent and innovation.

Amid the so-called “Great Resignation,” with employees quitting jobs at a sustained rate of about 50 percent higher than pre-pandemic rates, banks nationwide face a challenge in finding and retaining talent. Workers are leaving for a variety of reasons—caregiving responsibilities, refocused priorities, opportunities to relocate near family with remote work or the need to boost earnings in an inflationary environment—but regardless of why team members are leaving, it is incumbent on us as bank leaders to address it.

To help bankers identify and recruit top talent, ABA has partnered with more than 30 state associations to sponsor BankTalentHQ. We’ve all put our resources together to build the nation’s best single source of banking jobs.

Of course, just as important as recruitment (and a lot less expensive!) is retention of our best talent. We as an industry have a lot of tools to offer: competitive salaries, leading benefits and a great workplace culture. At ABA, opportunities like the Stonier Graduate School of Banking and certification programs can be part of your retention toolkit.

The challenge of talent is compounded by the rapid technological change compounded by growing nonbank competition. For one, many of our banks are competing with the top tech companies and fintech startups for technologists and programmers. Here in the Salt Lake valley—known as the “Silicon Slopes” for our high-tech employment hub—Zions Bancorporation in July opened a 400,000-square-foot technology campus. It will be our primary operational hub and will bring 1,500 employees together to collaborate and innovate.

Employees will enjoy natural light; healthy food options; wellness and health facilities; and bike, transit and electric vehicle access options—all amenities that will help them bring their best to work and foster innovation, while helping Zions compete regionally for tech talent.

On the innovation front, ABA has spent the last year building new partnerships to help banks succeed in this changing environment. One key vector for these partnerships is our strategic investments.

Earlier this year, ABA exited one of those investments: a company called Finxact, which was acquired by Fiserv. We invested in Finxact several years ago because it was a startup with talented leaders developing a cloud-based, open core solution. This was the direction that our banker-led Core Platforms Committee has been prodding the core industry for years, and Fiserv’s purchase of Finxact is a proof of concept for our strategy. More broadly, we’re seeing cores large and small are moving markedly in the direction ABA has nudged—toward open APIs, transparent and fair contracts and flexible access to bank data. We’ve got more work to do but this is a good start.

ABA made a new investment in NYDIG, which helps banks offer bitcoin custody services to their clients. Consumers have expressed a clear preference to engage in crypto through their banks. As we can see from the recent market gyrations, crypto won’t be for every bank, or for every client, but by working with NYDIG we can identify ways for banks to do it compliantly and safely if that’s part of their strategic plans.

Finally, ABA made a second-round investment in Canapi. This venture fund is dedicated to incubating fintech partners built to work with community and midsize banks, and through our investment we are able to plug our member banks directly into this innovation ecosystem.

Bank talent powers this innovation. Together, the investments bank leaders make in tackling these two challenges will set us on a path to a prosperous future.

ABA Chair Scott Anderson is president and CEO of Zions Bank in Salt Lake City.

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