U.S. Bank Branch Managers Take on Loan Duties

The bank is seeing results from a program it initiated three years ago that requires branch managers to spend nearly half of their time working on small-business lending.

Branch managers at U.S. Bancorp are no longer tied to their desks doing administrative duties for their entire workday, but are instead out in the field pursuing new small-business loans under a fairly new initiative-which the bank says is producing results.

The Minneapolis-based bank initiated a program three years ago in which it trained its 3,000 branch managers to take on some small-business lending duties, including meeting with current small-business customers and prospecting for new ones.

According to Christine Hobrough, U.S. Bancorp's regional manager in the Twin Cities, the bank's branch managers were taught basic lending practices and duties during the first year-and-a-half of the program, but the bank saw the need to take a different approach during the second half.

Many branch managers had to step out of their comfort zone to interact with clients, Hobrough said, so the bank began teaching the managers how to interact with businesses by asking good questions and listening to business owners. The second phase of training included joint calls with district managers and mock presentations that helped build relationship skills.

About a year ago, the company reached its goal of having its branch managers spend about 40 percent of their time working with small-business customers. U.S. Bank also requires that all branch managers have a list of 100 small-business prospects that are not currently customers with U.S. Bank. Branch managers reach out to each prospect quarterly to try to gain their business.

Now, three years later, the bank says that the training and hard work has paid off. According to Hobrough, the bank's 87 Twin Cities branches saw an 11 percent increase of small-business lending balances in 2010.

The company would not disclose the number of new small business clients that it has gained, but Hobrough said that the it “grown at an increasing rate each year since [the bank] began the program.”

Although the branch managers were the ones that had to step up and learn new skills, Hobrough said the success of the program has been a team effort. In order to free up the branch managers' time, assistant branch managers have taken on more administrative duties. The branch manager and assistant branch manager have now become a “management and leadership team,” Hobrough said.

In addition, Hobrough said that the bank has recently made process improvements that have streamlined administrative work, thus saving both time and effort. That, combined with new computer equipment, has given branch managers more time to meet with small-business clients and prospects.

The program was initially instated only at U.S. Bancorp's 71 traditional branches in the Twin Cities. But the bank recently started training branch mangers at its 11 in-store branches.

“Throughout the financial crisis, we have not stopped lending and we have not stopped growing and I think it speaks volumes in the way we approach it,” Hobrough said.