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Promoting Careers in Banking to a Younger Generation

As labor shortages wear on and baby boomers retire in droves, every industry is facing the issue of how to approach the younger generation, and banking is certainly no exception. Raised on technology and emerging trends, there is no doubt these kids know our future. After all, they are it. Each day, it becomes increasingly more important to reinvest our efforts into making sure our future is prepared to take on important roles in our society.

The trouble however is not understanding why banks should hire new, younger talent; they understand future technology and have the ability to use vast experiences to provide a non-banking perspective. The question remains how do banks promote careers in banking to a Gen Z.

Jim Johannes, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business professor emeritus of banking and finance, knows firsthand the way his students see banking: an app on their smartphone or a teller behind a screen. It’s a difficult task to grasp every aspect of banking without the ability to experience it directly. According to Jessica Fox-Wilson, director of Career Works at Beloit College, college students are impressively passionate and enthusiastic about what they do, and their lack of preconceived notions also makes them to be far more adaptable to an industry than a seasoned veteran may allow for.

Although, students typically don’t gravitate towards a career in banking, Kim Huntley, senior vice president of human resources at Waukesha State Bank, understands that new graduates from high school and college aspire to make lasting impacts on the communities; a trait perfectly aligned with the banking industry. Through community service and the ability to help foster growth in individuals and businesses in the community, banking offers just the type of rewarding work younger generations strive to achieve.

It’s difficult for many non-bankers to truly grasp the full scope of the industry without experiencing it directly. This means that “telling the banking story” (or, allowing those interested in the industry to fully see their impact) becomes that much more important, according to Johannes. Investing time to give interns the opportunity to allocate capital and see their work in action will make them much more invested in the functions of the job.

When drawing awareness to the different opportunities offered, it is important to consider the different skills that lend themselves to the banking industry. While accounting, finance, and mathematics remain as popular as ever, more and more students are graduating with focuses on communications, business, and computer science. Fox-Wilson highlights Beloit Colleges’ four core transferable skills that, regardless of the major, are evident in every college graduate: communication, collaboration, problem solving, and agility. Individuals who possess traits such as service and detail-orientation also hold the abilities that allow for a strong foundation. This means community banks are able focus their time on task-specific training.

Over the past few years, discussions regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) have been important to helping grow the banking industry. By making clear efforts into hiring talent from a broad range of experiences, banks will not only emphasize the potential in every person but allow for a collaborative and innovative environment where employees are invited to enact change through their own perspective. As Gen Z is known to value inclusivity, employers that demonstrate inclusive culture also become attractive employers. Striving to diversify the talent within banks ultimately leads to greater innovations and a well-rounded team.

While the public sees banking as mainly tellers, using opportunities when interacting students while guest speaking or at job fairs to highlight the many facets of the industry including IT, marketing, and human resources may convince the otherwise skeptical that a career in banking could be a good fit for them. Not only are these positions necessary to the bank, but they are also of increasing interest to graduates. Simply informing students of available opportunities can be a great way to drum-up interest in a specific industry.

New graduates are extremely motivated by advancement opportunities and is a major advantage to beginning a career in community banking. “Community banks are small enough to give employees opportunities to grow in several areas of the bank and would prefer to promote employees from within the bank before searching outside of it,” says Huntley. The benefit of learning and growing your career quickly is highly sought-after by younger, bright-eyed graduates, especially when skills learned on the job are applicable to other aspects of banking or their career.

Banking typically isn’t conceived by younger generations as a “glamorous” or trendy career choice, which makes it a bit trickier when convincing younger generations that they make a great fit for the industry. “If you enjoy what you’re doing, it’s just a great career,” says Johannes. “You make a difference in your community in meeting and interacting with a lot of very different people and you’re able to serve a huge social function by allocating credit and preserving the payments mechanism.” Banking also provides stability and work-life balance that is unlike many other industries. Highlighting benefits that resonate with new graduates, such as generous time off policies and the ability to spend holidays with family, help the industry stand apart.

Of course, the answer to how to recruit for banking careers is multidimensional. In working alongside schools and institutions of higher education to promote an accurate image of the full banking industry, community banks would have the ability to create connections and highlight the applicability of a wide range of skills in addition to financial literacy. By having a deep understanding of the career paths that would allow each employee to be successful, banks are able to equip employees with the needed skills in their career path long before openings arise and through creating DEI missions that not only found a thriving community outside of the bank but encourage the same community involvement within. Ultimately, banks can benefit from fresh perspectives and understanding that are brought by individuals who represent the broader community in which the intuition serves.

By Hannah Flanders