Becoming a Better Banker (for free!)

It feels like with each passing year, banking in the Greater New York Area (and probably in other highly populated areas around the U.S.) gets more competitive and cutthroat. I was not in the banking industry 20 years ago, or even 10 but I imagine there’s been lots of changes in one of the most regulated sectors in the world. With the sheer amount of financial institutions out there, banks do anything and everything they can to differentiate themselves. Some of these strategies include specialization in a particular product or industry, size and organizational structure (community versus large banks), risk appetite and technology. Besides these key factors, the sales teams who are customer-facing and trying to grow their portfolios have to find even more creative and effective ways to differentiate themselves. One of the key things I noticed that makes an excellent business banker is someone who has strong interpersonal skills and can build connections with their customers but also has extensive technical credit skills that allows them to size up companies, read and interpret financial statements, and put them in layman’s terms. It is my sincere opinion that you can no longer be an all-star banker by just being a good cold caller or a relentless networker alone. Although these things are certainly helpful, I think the best bankers have the necessary credit and underwriting skills to serve as an advocate or consultant both internal and external when dealing with a potential customer.

Invest in Yourself

So you are a good sales person and have exhausted all of your bank’s internal training resources and still lack some of the technical skills to be a better banker? Well thank goodness for 2017 and easy access to free online training courses. I highlight below three courses offered by reputable colleges and university in the U.S. that are offered on Coursera. These courses may be basic for some, depending on skill level but are all a great starting point for bankers who want to take their skills to the next level.

1.) Introduction to Financial Accounting

Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania

Length: 4 weeks of study, 5–6 hours/week

2.) Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills

University of Michigan

Length: 7 weeks of study, 1–2 hours/week

3.) The Language and Tools of Financial Analysis

University of Melbourne and Bank of New York Mellon partnership

Length: 4 weeks of study, 4–6 hours/week

I am interested in hearing from anyone who has taken courses from Coursera or any other Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) and what the experience was like. Since 2012, I’ve seen more and more reputable educational institutions get involved in these and I see this as the way of the future. There’s been some interesting things that people have done, including one lady by the name of Laurie Pickard who designed her own “No Pay MBA” program in an effort to get all of the same knowledge that a traditional MBA would teach you without the large price tag. She wrote about her experience in 2013, and I imagine hundreds if not thousands of people around the world have done similar things since.

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