Discount Bank – Developing Managers

With 6,200 employees and 1,200 managers, Discount Bank is Israel's third largest bank. Some 3,200 employees work at 130 branches around the country and in business units. The remaining employees work in professional units and in various units at the bank's headquarters.
Last year Discount Bank launched an extensive expansion drive that affected its training and human resources development programs.
The Development and Training Department, a part of Human Resources, is in charge of developing and nurturing human capital at Bank Discount in order to achieve its business goals in keeping with the bank's vision and values.
We spoke with Shoshi Kimchi, manager of Development and Training, about training and developing employees and managers at Bank Discount.

The banks are perceived as good places to work, and I assume turnover is not high. Therefore a unit like yours carries considerable weight in the employee's professional development.
Discount Bank believes in its financial strength, its ability to ensure job security and the professionalism of its staff and temporary employees. We invest extensive resources into boosting the human composition – both quantitatively and qualitatively. The bank runs integration and promotion tracks for professional banking and management positions. Job security is apparent in the encouragement of a lifetime career and an internal job market. An employee entering the company sees it, in most cases, as a place for career development throughout one's professional life.

Long-term employment offers advantages such as company loyalty, commitment, identifying with the bank and its goals and a strong, united organizational culture.
This type of employment requires extensive investment in human capital, especially in the professional headquarter units, and less at the branches.

Can you think of a concrete example?
The investment counselors are professionals operating in a professional market. Still, their promotion prospects are more limited than the managers'. Therefore we built a designated career track designed for investment counselors. The new track extends the career horizons of counselors who opt to advance professionally. However, based on familiarity with the managerial track as the main promotion track at the bank, the conditions for transferring from the professional track in investment counseling to the managerial track have been institutionalized.
We're currently finalizing a designated track for employees working in the area of credit.

Do you have to hold a managerial post to advance in the banking track?
The managerial track is the primary advancement track at the bank. Getting promoted to high-ranking positions is accomplished by working up the corporate ladder. In the initial stages the professional career track runs parallel to the managerial track, but the managerial track has a more expansive horizon.
A ranking investment counselor, for instance, is an expert in his field. He handles customers with large amounts of capital, receives recognition for his abilities and his salary is no less than that of a manager in a parallel track. He can reach a rank equivalent to assistant branch manager while engaging in his field of expertise and without managing employees. The professional career track has extended the potential for advancement in rank.

How do you train managers for their posts?
Discount Bank operates a training department for positions along the entire length of the managerial spectrum, from the lowest manager through middle management and executive management. The training programs all have a screening aspect aimed at training managers with suitable abilities and styles of management.
The managerial reserves course provides training for the starting ranks of management. The course provides basic insights and managerial proficiency while placing emphasis on concerted internal work by the participants to strengthen and improve individual and interpersonal abilities.
The pre-course screening process consists of two stages: a recommendation from the supervisor, who is closely familiar with the employee and his abilities, and an assessment by an external assessment institute to evaluate the employee's suitability for managerial posts.
The course lasts six consecutive weeks and involves hands-on experiential learning as well as theoretical learning over the course of several full days – including challenging individual and group work into the late hours of the night.

Where are the courses held?
The courses are held at Discount College, a Discount Bank training facility in Rishon Letzion. Course participants are bankers from around the country. During the extended study days lodgings are arranged at hotels located near Discount College. There are also daily transportation services from Arlozoroff Station to Discount College during the morning hours and going back in the evening.

How many students take part in this type of course and do all those who participate in it pass?
Fifteen participants take part in each managerial reserves course, i.e. the screening course. Passing the course constitutes approval for entering management. On average, 15% of course participants are approved for management. In some courses two or even three participants drop out. I can't recall a course where all of the students passed.

How is the screening process carried out in the course?
The managerial reserves course has five assessment indicators, each of which has a set passing grade required for approval. The first indicator is an EQ test during the course. The second indicator is a sociometric test, i.e. an evaluation by the other students in the course. The third indicator is the course leader's assessment of the participant's managerial abilities and skills. The fourth indicator is a group project that provides an opportunity for managerial engagement. Finally, the combined data is brought before the Approval Committee, which includes the deputy CEO and Human Resources representatives. The committee discusses the candidate's profile in the course and his performance in his unit, and decides whether to approve him for management.

What kind of feedback do the students receive regarding their performance in the course?
At the halfway point participants receive a progress report that allows them to boost their strong points and to locate and improve elements that are holding them back. The midway progress report is an important gauge in preparation for the second half of the course. It allows the participant to improve his performance in the course and points to his openness, flexibility and ability to accept critique, to change and to implement learning. At the end of the course, before the Approval Committee, the participant receives a summary feedback covering each of the assessment indicators throughout the course, a sketch of his managerial profile and its practical significance. 

How much seniority does an employee need to get into the course?
The specialization policy and efforts to promote excellence led to a rejuvenation of the composition of course participants. Many of the participants have 6-8 years' seniority at the bank. Many of them are relatively young, but you'll also find people over 40. The caliber of their skills and performance is the criterion that influences the decision of whether or not to train an employee for the managerial ranks.

What post does someone who passes the course go back to?
The length of time before an appointment to a first managerial post varies and is subject to the bank's needs. A managerial reserves candidate can be assigned immediately to a professional unit: in one of the headquarters units as a department manager, or at one of the branches as an assistant branch manager. Up to three assistant managers can be appointed to a branch, based on its size, of course.

What does "the size of the branch" mean?
Discount Bank branches are a continuum in terms of size. On one end of the scale are mini branches operated by one or two employees, such as the points located at the malls. On the other end of the scale are the three main branches, which have dozens of workers and provide financial services for the retail sector and the business sector. Along the continuum are most of the branches, both large and medium-size.

What does the training program for branch managers consist of?
The training for branch management is designed to develop in future branch managers the abilities needed to implement the bank's business strategy and to assimilate the processes of change required to accomplish it.
The contents focus on results-oriented management, managing change, managing service and sales, leadership and staff management.

The program includes imparting banking know-how, staff management knowledge and skills, case studies taken from the bank itself and practice leading groups in challenging tasks in the field under competitive conditions.

How many of these courses are held per year?
Between two and four managerial reserves training courses are held every year, in addition to one or two branch management reserves courses – all based on the bank's needs.

What does the executive managers' training course include?
In 2006 we conducted executive management training for the first time; managers designated for the job of department head. The parallel position at the branches is manager of a senior branch (Discount has 16 senior branches).
Executive management training focuses on a managerial, system-wide and strategic view, initiative and boldness within the framework of the bank's policy and excellence in managing people.

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What about training employees, both newcomers and veterans?
Every employee and manager at Discount Bank enjoys the benefit of training relevant to his task, occupational enrichment (which adds complexity, meaning and a wealth of contents) and opportunities for personal development and advancement along a built-in development track.
In addition to the managerial career tracks and the professional development tracks for investment counselors and credit personnel, temporary workers at the branches and at the direct banking centers also have special development tracks available to them.
These tracks present the employee with prospects for professional development and advancement along with an attractive compensation system and opportunities to join the bank as a staff employee in the future – for suitable candidates among the leading temporary staffers.
Training for a post and while in a post covers all of the knowledge and skills required – knowledge and proficiency in banking, retailing (promotion, service and sales) and management/leadership. The training programs combine an assortment of methods and are supported by technological systems and management tools that enable learning and functioning as a professional at a high level.     
In light of our accent on lifetime employment and the internal job market, a substantial portion of training and cultural enrichment activities focus on veteran employees, retaining proficiency in existing tasks or training for future positions in the advancement and/or mobility track.

I imagine the new employee starts out in the training system.
Correct. The first two positions at the branches are teller and service staff banker. Prospective tellers come in for initial training, which includes basic banking knowledge, beginning sales and service skills and an organizational orientation, which includes trying out work at a branch and personal mentors at the branch. A teller who demonstrates a high level of skill and ability will join the service staffs within a matter of months.
Joining service staffs requires more explicit, in-depth and prolonged training.
The current policy is to expand investment in employee training. We provide comprehensive training that allows the employee to assume the task quickly.

How much use do you make of remote learning tools?
The e-learning system allows thousands of students to simultaneously study a range of topics, including both theory and practical skills.
Employees from across the country study independently from their desktop when time permits, with the aid of a tutor at the branch. This precludes the need of having to come to Discount College physically, disrupting the work routine for long periods of time (some training processes can last as long as six months). However, the course framework remains. We make a point of holding meetings at the beginning and end of courses and guide the learning process and the participants at midway meetings held at Discount College.
The remote learning system offers another advantage – the material can be updated constantly and makes additional study materials available to thousands of learners simultaneously.

How do you determine which of the bank's employees will man a managerial post?
There are two apparatuses. One is mobility, i.e. appointing a manager to serve in a parallel post in terms of hierarchy, under the bank's internal mobility apparatus based on Bank of Israel directives (rotation) or general needs and/or individual request (mobility).
The second apparatus is promotion: appointing a manager to a post by promoting him up the hierarchy.
When a managerial position is not manned through rotation a notice is posted on the bank's internal communication system. The position is open to all managers, in accordance with the job requirements listed in the tender. A manager who meets the requirements and would like to vie for the position has one obligation – to notify his supervisor.

That could create tension between them. The supervisor can get the feeling he is being abandoned. The little birdie leaving the nest.
I see this as a good opportunity for dialogue between them. An employee who wants to apply for a position in a different unit indicates his needs for advancements were not met within the unit.
This type of conversation is an important managing tool for matching expectations and reducing gaps in the area of the employee's professional needs (based on unit goals) and his prospects for promotion in relation to his performance and capabilities.


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