The Consumer Bankers Association recently concluded our Executive Banking School in Greenville. Established more than 70 years ago, this year’s program was the first to be held in-person since 2019, welcoming more than 300 students from 39 banks back to the campus of Furman University.
CBA’s Executive Banking School is a three-year immersive advanced banking education program that provides future bank leaders with the comprehensive, holistic perspective of retail banking required to lead and evolve effectively with industry shifts.
Our society has changed dramatically over the past three years, but the important role EBS plays in preparing the next generation of diverse bankers has not. Here are some of the key takeaways from our time in Greenville this year.
America’s leading banks are committed to building a robust and diverse talent pipeline.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced banks, like so many other industries, to reimagine how to retain and attract the best and brightest employees. This drive for the top talent also led banks to redouble their efforts to build diverse teams that better reflect the communities they serve.
Through their participation in the program, banks are demonstrating a tangible commitment to building a diverse and robust talent pipeline while also signaling to rising stars within the bank that their employer is invested in their future success.
In-person programs support complex learning and networking — two key ingredients to preparing future leaders.
The pandemic has also challenged each of our member banks to reimagine the future of the workplace. As an industry, we need to navigate the shift to having more people work from home, and perhaps more often than we used to allow. However, this year’s EBS session convinced me beyond a doubt that at least two things are best done in the same room — complex learning and networking.
As a faculty of mostly practitioners — 93% of whom are full-time bankers — we pride ourselves on delivering a rigorous curriculum that is enhanced by simulations and breakout exercises while also incorporating real-life examples. This approach challenges the students, making them uncomfortable in the moment and ultimately helping them learn how to tackle the complex issues they may face as a future industry leader.
The learning that takes place during impromptu one-on-one conversations with faculty in the classroom or with other students in the hallways simply cannot be replicated. Our objective is to move students as far to the right on the learning curve as possible, from wherever they start, and that effort is maximized when we can look each other in the eye.
For example, students this year heard from industry leaders who traveled to Greenville to provide their perspective on the pressing issues facing retail banks today, including John Asbury, CEO of Atlantic Union Bank; Cassandra McKinney, CBA board member and head of the retail bank at Comerica; and David Turner, CFO at Regions Bank. Although these presentations can be delivered virtually, the candor and engagement displayed by students during these sessions reaffirmed the value of being held in-person.
South Carolina hospitality keeps students coming back.
EBS graduates frequently cite the meaningful friendships formed with fellow students as a distinguishing feature of the program. Over the past several years while the program was being delivered virtually, our team strived to create social opportunities for students through platforms like Zoom, but they pale in comparison to the relationships formed in person. Whether late-night conversations in the dorms at Furman, playing a game of pick-up basketball or attending a schoolwide outing at Top Golf, students were especially eager to be in-person this year and develop lasting relationships with fellow students from different backgrounds and regions of the country.
Similarly, bankers who attend EBS genuinely look forward to spending time in and around Greenville, the city we’ve called home since 2008.
One special tradition of the program is Bank Dinner Night, where executives fly into the Upstate and host students from their banks at restaurants around town, including Hall’s Chophouse, Soby’s, Larkin’s and more. On campus or downtown, it was abundantly clear bankers were thrilled to be back in Greenville, partake in the rich cultural experiences the town has to offer and experience the region’s warm hospitality that has kept bankers coming back each year.
With so many challenges and opportunities facing retail banks today, the need to develop capable and strategic leaders has never been greater. EBS is the premier advanced education program for bankers and is core to CBA’s mission of “preparing the next generation of diverse bankers to lead the industry.” The conversations, lessons, and classes held in South Carolina annually each summer help to ensure banks remain well-positioned to deliver on their mission of financing the American Dream across every community they serve for decades to come.
Tom Dent is SVP, director of executive education at the Consumer Bankers Association in Washington, D.C.