Making This Up as I Go: Creating a Technical Manager Career Path in Banking, Part Two

I faced a new challenge as a manager. How do I build a role for the technical managers in our Bank’s operations department that are high performers and want to grow with the organization but they are happiest and most productive when building and improving processes and not directly managing people?

I needed to really wrap my arms around what it meant to be a Technical Manager (TM) in order to create new job roles and a growth path. Each team member individually demonstrates the proclivity to learn & retain information related to their area of expertise. They thrive when they are allowed to thoroughly research an issue or project and bring a workable solution to the table. For each technical manager, I feel their strength comes from the depth of knowledge they attain within their individual subject matter(s) as well as their ability to convey this information to various audiences including more sophisticated (Board of Directors, Committee Roundtables, Market Presidents) and more introductory (frontline, contact center, clients). They should each be participating in some type of peer group meeting on at least a semiannual basis and/or seeking out training in their subject.

Part of their role as a TM should be to mentor other staff members. Once it has been identified that the employee has an interest or passion for a certain subject, they can be paired with a TM to build a mentoring relationship to foster this passion. Each TM should only have one “mentee” at a time to ensure they are provide enough time to perform the research/projects they need to get done to fulfill their own passions/goals.

Each individual’s intellectual curiosity will determine how quickly they move through the “ranks”. These ranks could include:

  • Specialist
    Entry level role. Performing daily tasks and just learning about the systems and how they work together. May be mentored by a TM at some point depending on where their interests/passion lies.
  • Technician
    Experienced Specialist who is beginning to find their niche. May begin certification process within their subject (ie: BSA, ACH, Compliance, Checks, etc.). Should have a mentor assigned by the time they become a technician. Technicians help the TM’s put their ideas/research into practice and may be asked to sit on process improvement projects.
  • Technical Manager (Subject Matter Expert)
    Person who is an authority in a particular area or topic. They are the go to person for questions on leveraging our systems more effectively, creating a new process or improving a process within their area of expertise, the main audit contact, etc… They are expected to initiate process improvement projects as they identify areas of improvement and will be held accountable to see these all the way to implementation. They will be leveraging the technicians and specialists (at times) to accomplish the projects. Growth would come with adding more “subjects” to their knowledge base as long as those subjects are complementary of each other and relevant.

I am going to introduce Ann and Sue back into the story. Ann’s path was built more on knowledge. Her research helps the bank determine where our risks lie, determine where we are willing to take risk, and identify risk mitigation factors. Knowledge (including systems knowledge) can be objectively measured via industry certifications, process improvement efforts (BPI), conversion projects, etc. Sue’s path is built on systems. This includes ownership over how our processing systems work, new ways to leverage these systems, research into new releases to determine what changes have been made and how we can benefit from the changes, and helping our end users succeed in their usage of the systems. They each lead by example and have influence over the team members they managed previously. They each lead projects, delegate tasks accordingly and maintain high standards of service for not only our banking clients but internal employees that we serve as well.

I manage a large team of employees but it is actually easier now than it was two years ago. I am hoping you are wondering why… well, I am going to tell you anyway. Ann and Sue are empowered to lead, are intellectually curious and consider themselves role models for the team. I am able to meet with each team member monthly and have conversations about education opportunities, whether they are satisfied with their roles, or obstacles I can help them overcome. The conversations are not hijacked with to do lists and firefighting. I stay plugged in to the day to day work but I am very seldom pulled into the weeds because Ann and Sue won’t let me. My failure to truly lead two years ago has allowed our organization to grow and evolve into a bank that recognizes not only people managers but technical managers as well. A good “People” manager is only as good as the technical managers she or he surround themselves with and I am grateful for them everyday.

Christy BakerChristy Baker is currently the Chief Operations Officer with TS Banking Group which is comprised of three banking charters. She has been in banking for 18 years and has held various positions including Assistant Cashier, Branch Manager, Controller, Director of Internal Audit and, most recently, COO. Christy and her husband Eric live on an acreage near Oakland, Iowa, along with their two sons John and Alex. This blog series, “Making This Up as I Go” is focused on lessons learned in leadership over her years in banking and how that has led to personal growth and a passion for leading teams.

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