Banks’ branch staff fewer in number, higher in skills

August 10, 20169:50 am1275 views
Banks’ branch staff fewer in number, higher in skills

AS PEOPLE are much more familiar with conducting transactions online and through mobile banking and tend to depend less on staff at the counters, the banks are training their employees to embrace a new role as professionals who can provide one-stop service.

As more of their customers make transactions via mobile banking, banks are considering closing some of their branches as a way to save operating costs.

At Kasikornbank, digital transactions in the first half surged by 95 per cent year on year to 930 million. They represented 65 per cent of total transactions at KBank, while transactions at its 1,120 branches nationwide accounted for only 6 per cent.

Executive vice president Noppawan Jermhansa said KBank expected the value of digital transactions to grow tenfold over the next five years to Bt30 trillion. Based on that assumption, the number of digital transactions will rise to 7.9 billion per year, while the annual number of transactions at KBank branches will be 153 million.

The decline in transactions at branches means employees in the future must be able to go beyond their traditional bank-counter duties and provide financial advice, said Krit Jitjang, senior executive vice president of KBank.

KBank has 21,012 employees, of whom 10,601 work in its branches.

Krit said that while KBank was not expanding its branches, it was still recruiting new employees because of the high staff turnover in the banking industry. Each year, KBank recruits around 1,000 new employees, which is a challenge for bank as it has to train them in line with the adjustments of branch duties and digital banking.

New staff must be comfortable with technology, but attracting tech-savvy employees is not easy because younger people are not keen on working at a bank. Therefore, KBank uses its subsidiary Kasikorn Business-Technology Group to attract them.

Meanwhile, CIMB Thai Bank is a prime example of an institution that is closing more branches than opening them. It now has 96 branches, down from 123 last year, and plans to close 10 more this year, because CIMBT is not a transactional bank. Its branches are able to accommodate wealthy clients, who are the main customers at CIMBT, as they only visit the branches once or twice a month.

Kanokpai Vongsatitporn, head of human resources at CIMBT, said the qualifications of staff at its branches had changed from the past because the bank does not emphasise transactional services. Its branch employees must be financial advisers, and they should be able to offer one-stop service to customers, she said.

She said employees at the branches the bank closes are redeployed to other positions, depending on their skills.

The bank currently has 850 branch employees.

Worawat Suvagondha, first executive vice president and head of human resources at Siam Commercial Bank, said branches in the future would be the venues of financial advisory services rather than transactional banking, so SCB will emphasise recruiting people who are already trained in that area. Basic knowledge of economics and accounting should be seen in new employees, and the bank will train them to be financial consultants.

He said new employees at SCB’s branches must have passion and the ability to adapt quickly to the rapid changes in technology.

Of SCB’s 22,000 employees, 12,000 work in its branches. Each year, it recruits 3,000 staff, of whom 2,000 are for the branches. In the first half, it recruited 1,100 new workers, the same as in the first six months of last year.

Mayurasiri Pongtaranont, Krungthai Bank senior executive vice president and head of its human-resources and corporate-governance group, said the recruitment of new employees for KTB’s branches would gradually decline as fewer customers need to visit a branch. Basic transactions such as deposits and withdrawals, money transfers, bill payments or even loan approvals can be done digitally.

The new employees that it does hire are largely for back-office, information-technology or call-centre duties. Meanwhile the employees at its branches are becoming more expert in economics and with the financial and capital markets.

In the digital era, bank-branch employees must be skilled in IT, analysis and foreign languages to serve customers in the Asean Economic Community using digital banking.

Mayurasiri said that when KTB moves ahead to full-function digital banking, it would acquire fewer employees for its branches but more for back-office work.

This year, the bank has maintained its existing workforce, while planning to improve their digital skills. Recruiting new workers will be considered after the bank redeploys its existing workers to other vacancies from resignations and retirements.

As of June 30, KTB had 23,738 employees, of whom 13,730 worked in its branches.

Front-end staff at the smallest commercial bank, Land and Houses Bank, must be financial experts, said its president Sasitorn Phongsathorn.

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