Resting or Investing? Meeting the Talent Needs of Your Bank

The biggest issue facing all companies right now is what many call “the war for talent.” It’s especially true for the banking industry and part of the reason why you see so much bank consolidation.

There is a weakness in many bank’s bench strength because so many talented and seasoned bankers have retired since the financial crisis or will retire in the next 5 years.

Sometimes, it can be easy to find talent by being the highest bidder in your market. But this approach is short-term in nature and often times the performance doesn’t match the pay.

The better option for any organization is develop the talent you already have within your team and also to take a chance on developing young talent over a longer time frame. I was privileged to work for a company that was very purposeful about moving their young talent within the organization to develop “depth and breadth” amongst the team. They recognized their talent, actively managed it and rewarded the talent accordingly. Yes, generations differ slightly due to changes in technology and other factors, but the business world has not changed: it is all about performance and profit. The business with the best talent will have the best chance of success.

A smaller organization like Fresno First Bank must compete against many industries for talent in our market. As a bank, more and more things revolve around technology and customer data, and data analytics is becoming a bigger part of our business model. This market reality forces our existing team to learn new skills, but it also requires the bank to hire for specific skills which existing staff does not possess. However, these same skill sets or talents are also sought by Silicon Valley and every other industry for that matter. You see the dilemma.

At a certain point, you have to take the risk on talent, especially young talent, and that is something I have become very comfortable with throughout my career. It comes down to your ability to hire people who are a lot smarter than you.

This concept has to be embraced by the senior management of any company. If they’re not open to having better people on their team, and they can’t manage that confidence and those egos, then inevitably it will stifle young talent, and talent where go where it is wanted.

The idea that someone has to put in their time and pay their dues is long gone. But also note (listen up, millennials!) that the business world doesn’t hand out participation trophies. It could care less about where you’re from or how old you are. If you’re 70 years old and happen to be an I.T. expert, that’s great, get to work! On the flip side, if you’re 21 years old and can run circles around a more experienced colleague then your company should let you run.

Our bank is set up as an ESOP. We feel this gives our team true “skin-in-the-game”, which can lead to better decisions and a sense of connectedness to what’s going on.

Within our organization, we have a couple of people who are straight out of college and quite ambitious. Recently, we had one of our younger employees present to our board of directors on a really sophisticated topic and they did a great job. Their age is meaningless.  This person knows their “stuff” as they say and they were able to convey a complex message to our board members in a simple format. At the same time, we have asked our more experienced staff to do their jobs very differently than the past and they are adapting very well to an ever-changing industry. That is talent at work.

Talent will always rise to the occasion. Our job as leaders is to put them in positions to display their talent….and then step back and let them work.

So are you resting on your laurels or are you investing in your talent? Let me know your thoughts in the comments or send me a message at


About Steve Miller, President & CEO of Fresno First Bank

Steve Miller has more than 20 years of commercial banking, retail banking, operations and sales/marketing experience. Miller was born and raised in Orange County, California, and is a graduate of Columbia University where he earned his bachelor’s degree. Before joining Fresno First Bank, Miller’s career highlights included several years with HSBC Indonesia running its small business portfolio for the country, and six years in Malaysia at Alliance Financial Group running its business banking division. During his tenure at Alliance Financial Group they were awarded the Best Small Business Bank in Asia Pacific, Africa and the Middle East in 2013 and 2015.