Schooled in Success
CBA Offers Two-Year Management Development Program
By Katie Curnutte
It’s not always easy for bankers to understand the work of the person in the next office. A commercial lender may not always grasp the inside and outside factors that go into the job of someone in operations, and vice versa. But as these bankers move up through the ranks, it becomes more important for them to have a broad appreciation of everything that goes on in an institution and in the financial world at large. How do they obtain such knowledge? Many Connecticut bank senior managers recognize the need for that understanding, and send their employees to the Connecticut School of Finance & Management, a two-year series of classes run by the Connecticut Bankers Association that aims to expose the inner workings of a bank and the financial happenings that affect it.
“I think it’s one of the premier things you can do for your [employees],” said Stafford Savings Bank Vice President Lou Ferreira, who also chairs the CBA committee that oversees the school.
The Stafford Savings Bank encourages one of its employees to go to the School every year. It gives them an education beyond the scope of what they deal with everyday, according to Ferreira. If an employee has the potential to grow, sending him or her to the School is a good way to enhance their knowledge of the banking world, he said.
“It certainly gives us a vehicle to expose people to a different array of banking issues,” Ferreira said.
Middletown-based Liberty Bank sends a minimum of two employees a year, sometimes sending as many as five, said Senior Vice President Steve Barlow.
“It is pretty much a requirement for people who have the potential to be branch managers,” he said.
Students of the School get a better understanding of banking as a whole, and get strong communications and strategic planning skills, he said. It also improves their writing skills.
“It really makes them well-rounded,” Barlow said.
Most of Liberty Bank’s higher-ups who have been developed in the bank have attended the School and, of the 35 branch managers, most have attended, according to Barlow.
Fairfield County Bank Corp. also sends several people a year to the program. Five employees graduated last year and three are enrolled this year, according to Gary Smith, president and chief executive officer of the bank.
“A lot of the people who come into banking and find their way into management careers don’t have a broad knowledge of the banking industry,” he said.
The School provides that.
“It’s a broadening experience,” Smith said. “I think the most important skill [students gain from the program] is the ability to understand what affects the industry.”
It helps students better understand the day-to-day bank operations, like relationships between lending functions and administrative functions. Smith went through the School himself and graduated in 1974. Most of Fairfield County Bank’s middle and upper management has attended, he said.
The School is aimed at bankers who have supervisory responsibilities, like officers, assistant branch managers and department supervisors. The Management Development Committee, which decides who is admitted, recommends a minimum of one to three years of experience in the financial services industry.
The School’s purpose is: “To provide an opportunity for junior management personnel and key employees of Connecticut’s banking industry to obtain a more comprehensive knowledge and awareness of banking theory, practices and procedures, capital markets and management functions which will be of substantial value in their preparation for new and greater responsibilities at or within the management level.”
The School is divided up into two years. The first year is comprised of eight monthly class sessions and a two-and-a-half-day opening session. The classes that year include topics like the elements of economic analysis, effective written communication and commercial, real estate and mortgage lending technology. The second year is divided into an opening and a closing session and six monthly classes, with topics like strategic planning, human resources and stress management, and asset and liability management.
Jim Clarke, the president of Clarke Consulting in Villanova, PA, teaches financial topics like asset and liability management. He has been teaching at the Connecticut School of Finance & Management since 1987. The School has a broader curriculum than other state schools he has worked at, he said. The small size of the state helps by allowing students to gather for one day a month, rather than having to travel great distances. That means the Connecticut School has about one-third more instruction time than most other schools, Clarke said.
“[The students] are getting their money’s worth,” he said.
The curriculum also changes constantly to reflect changes in the industry and feedback from students.
“We do continuous improvement,” said Sandra Morgan, an associate professor of management at the University of Hartford, who teaches classes on organizational behavior, like team dynamics and leadership, at the School.
The constant updating also makes the School attractive to the state Department of Banking, which sends one or two employees, mostly examiners, every year.
“It moves along as the industry moves along,” said Commissioner John P. Burke. “The industry has changed and continues to change dramatically.”
Another reason Burke likes the School is because of the opportunity it provides for examiners to meet people they work with.
“We like the School as a regulator because it gives our examiners the chance to see the people they work with in a business sense,” he said. “That’s important.”
It also shows examiners that there’s more to running an institution than the regulatory aspects, Burke said.
The School can be especially helpful for small banks in Connecticut by showing bankers how to use some of the practices employed by big banks in a smaller setting, Burke said.
“They really learn a lot about it,” he said.
Programs like the Connecticut School of Finance & Management have helped form the careers of some prominent Connecticut bankers. John Perotti, the president and chief executive officer of Salisbury Bank & Trust, attended a similar program at Williams College in Massachusetts toward the beginning of his career. That program was what got him really interested in banking, he said.
“That kind of whet my appetite,” he said.
Perotti now sends his bank’s employees to the Connecticut School of Finance & Management. Three are in the program now.
“I have sent my employees there over the course of some years,” he said.
All of the employees he has sent have successfully completed the program, some in the top 10 percent of their class. Several who attended the School have become senior officers at Salisbury Bank & Trust, and one is a senior vice president.
“I wholeheartedly endorse the program,” Perotti said.
The School enables students to learn a lot about banking and also get the benefit of bonding with other banking professionals, he said. The program can be especially helpful for community bankers, but employees from big banks can also benefit, according to Perotti. It is a good program for junior officer and entry-level employees, giving them the opportunity to learn the history and inner workings of banking.
“For an individual making a commitment to banking, I think [the program] is a must,” Perotti said.
The program is very hands-on and gives students access to the brightest minds in banking in the country, Perotti said.
Michael J. Piette, a professor of economics at Florida State University and the president of the firm Analytical Economics, teaches the first three sessions on economics. He has taught classes at the Connecticut School of Finance & Management for 23 years. Piette has also worked as a banker, for the Society for Savings, which later became BankBoston. All in all, he figures he has taught about 1,000 students at the Connecticut School, he said.
He keeps coming back because of the quality of the School and curriculum. The curriculum is academically laid out, but all the examples and case studies are about banking. The school is also very well run, he said.
“It’s a really, really good program,” Piette said. “It’s a really cool operation.”
The School has been serving the banking industry since 1962 and lately has been growing, said Lindsey Pinkham, senior vice president and secretary of the Connecticut Bankers Association and administrator of the School. This year saw the biggest freshman class in six years and a more diverse group of students, Pinkham said. While the school used to mostly attract bank branch employees, now there are commercial lenders, analysts and operations people in addition to the retail personnel, he said.
In addition to the diverse group of students enrolled in the program, another strength of the School is the dedicated and knowledgeable faculty. Pinkham said that every instructor is evaluated by the students for: the instructors’ knowledge of the subject; the instructors’ skill and style of presentation; the relevance of the content; and the students’ overall evaluation of each particular session. These evaluations are tabulated and provided for review to both the instructor and the Management Development Committee. The Committee uses these evaluation reports to maintain a close eye on the faculty and program content.
Just last year the Association began using these evaluation summaries to market the School to its members, Pinkham said. The marketing campaign, “These Guys Are Good,” is a play on words, but numbers don’t lie, he said.
“I knew the evaluations were strong for the majority of our 20-plus instructors, but I was pleasantly surprised when the tabulations showed that, indeed, these guys were good,” said Pinkham.
Gerald M. Noonan, president and CEO of the Connecticut Bankers Association, summed it up best by noting, “It’s [the School] been around a long time and we hope it stays around a long time. If it continues to meet the needs and desires of the members, then we will continue to offer this premier bank management development program.”
Applications for entry into the School’s Class of 2007 will be distributed to all CBA member banks in April 2005 with a submission deadline of June 17, 2005. Students entering the Class of 2007 will commence their academic instruction with Sandra Morgan at the opening resident session scheduled for the Trumbull Marriott Hotel, Sept. 18-21, 2005.