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Five skills that really matter in a banking crisis

By Alastair Graham, Institute Fellow and Secretary General of the Global Banking Education Standards Board.




Society, the economy and businesses have faced a crisis on an unprecedented scale, and we have all had to draw on skills we perhaps haven’t used in some time as well as strengthen those we use day to day. From my own experience and from speaking with numerous colleagues on the frontline of banking in this crisis, it’s clear that there are some skills that have really mattered and have and will continue to make a difference as the pandemic plays out. Here are my top five:


1. Listen carefully and hear the subtext. Letting customers talk can be educational. You can identify passion, an owner who is across all the details, or those with a plan for trading out of the crisis, however tentative those plans are. By listening carefully, checking your understanding, then you can consider whether this is a viable business that’s been affected by the crisis, or whether there are systemic issues that the pandemic has merely highlighted.

2. Be consultative and get close to your client so that you can get a true feel for the business. In normal times that would mean going out to see the business, but regular virtual contact can also help. You need to think differently to take account of the circumstances and ask the right questions to enable you to drill down into the business fundamentals.

3. Combine technical skills with experience to understand the core drivers of a business as well as what the accounts and forecasts are telling you. It will help you to get a broader picture and consider the challenges the business faces, for example, industry risks, supplier risk, the macro-environment and their impact on the business’ future.

4. Be flexible and patient and impress the same skills on your clients. This is not a quick fix situation. Time will be needed for the effects to play out and recovery to happen and thinking flexibly about support or diversification could be useful.

5. Don’t let short-termism rule. Keep an eye on the future in terms or viability, reputation and even fraud. It’s important to combine empathy with objectivity. For example, sometimes saying no is the best option for a customer in the long-term, however hard it can be to deliver or hear that news in the short-term.

The role of the professional banker has been tested during the COVID-19 crisis, but the skills gained through rigorous training and continued professional development have undoubtedly stood individuals and institutions in good stead.


Alastair Graham is Institute Fellow and Secretary General of the Global Banking Education Standards Board. Hear more from Alastair in the Summer 2020 issue of Chartered Banker magazine.

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