Since joining USAA in 2013, licensed broker and financial advisor Brittany Dalecke has used the company’s tuition assistance to complete her MBA, Series 7, 63 and 66 designations, and Life and Health Insurance license. USAA is now paying for her second graduate degree in personal financial planning, which includes the Certified Financial Planner certification. “They truly are an amazing company that believes in taking care of their employees,” she said.

Predictions of a nationwide talent crisis in the finance industry have simmered for more than two years, but Colorado Springs banks, accounting firms and credit unions are feeling none of it.

Rather than struggling for talent, businesses across the Springs’ financial sector are building, expanding and fine-tuning initiatives for employee development, promoting from within and emphasizing work-life balance.

Programs focusing on career progression, diversity, education, personal development, flexible schedules, health and social activities are recognized as critical building blocks in securing employee loyalty. The consensus: Retention is key.

“We devote a ton of time and energy to training and retention,” said Christian Blees, president and CEO of BiggsKofford certified public accountants.

“Hiring in the financial industry, we refer to experienced people as ‘unicorns’ — they’re often dreamed of, but they don’t actually exist in the real world. I don’t have an expectation that I’ll be able to hire an experienced person [more often than] maybe every two or three years. We can’t build a staffing plan around that.

“So we hire entry level, and we train them,” Blees said. “When you commit a lot to that, you end up building really good people and you do everything you can to hold on to them. We bend over backwards to retain.”

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Jason Doyle, community bank president for UMB Bank’s Colorado Springs region, pointed to the risk of bankers switching to another institution for more money, and taking their customers with them.

“You have some people in the banking community that have been at two, three, four banks over a five- or six-year period,” he said.

“We try to create a good culture that helps people grow, not only as a better employee but as a better person, a better spouse, so that if someone offers you an extra $15,000, you just won’t leave. I know the culture here, and the culture is worth a lot of money to me.”

Stockman Kast Ryan & Co. Director of Human Capital Rhonda Dailey said she was seeing no shortage of available talent. The accounting firm is focusing on career path development and succession planning to prepare for an inevitable wave of Baby Boomer retirements, and to retain its best people.

Across the industry, Dailey noted, the partner track was becoming shorter. “When you see that superstar, you want to get them to their best as quickly as possible, so they’re in their sweet spot,” she said.

SKR’s newest managing partner, Trinity Bradley-Anderson, is 41 years old, and her youth “sends a message and also helps retain that Millennial staff,” Dailey said. “She relates in a way that the partners who are retiring won’t really relate.”

Among its staff development and retention initiatives, SKR offers flexible schedules, live training for media interviews, writing classes, social events, a staff book club and a core curriculum of “soft skills” for improving client interface.

“We take a very holistic approach in how we want to develop our staff,” SKR marketing director Rose Durham said. “We try to individualize their growth around their strengths and what they would like to do.”

Diversity in development tracks, ideas and communication is taken so seriously at SKR that every staff member has their Myers Briggs Type Indicator printed at the base of their name plate, encouraging everyone to be mindful of individual personality and communication preferences.

At financial services giant USAA, Vice President and General Manager Kent Fortune said diversity, inclusion, individual attention and employee satisfaction are front and center.

“There are four generations in the workforce right now -— from Millennials all the way up to Boomers,” he said. “No employee is like any other, so the way you manage has to be different; you have to offer programs, services, career development, benefits that match what they’re asking for, or it’s not going to resonate with them.

“We want to make sure we take care of our employees, and they’ll treat our members well. It costs money to do that, but you get more than that back in terms of employee retention and satisfaction.”

It’s a financial decision that makes sense. The Society for Human Resource Management pegged the direct replacement cost arising from employee turnover at 50 to 60 percent of the employee’s annual salary. Beyond that, indirect costs like lost clients and disruptions to team projects can push total turnover costs to 90 to 200 percent of the lost employee’s annual salary.

Along with on-site daycare, recreation areas and extensive (and free) health facilities and programs, Fortune said USAA increases staff retention through generous tuition assistance and ongoing diversity efforts.

“Diversity is huge. It’s not just about ethnicity and gender, it’s about diversity of thought. If you have a diverse workforce you’re going to have different thoughts, and we want to encourage everybody to share those thoughts,” he said.

“Part one of getting all those thoughts out is inclusion. You can’t just say, ‘I want diversity but I don’t want to hear your thoughts,’ because if you shut people off they’re going to take those really cool ideas somewhere else.”

USAA established Diversity Business Groups to “help employees be their
authentic selves … get together and talk about where we are doing well and what we are missing the boat on,” Fortune said. They include groups focusing on the LGBTQI community; promoting gender diversity and leadership; and supporting employees who are part of the military community, including veterans and military spouses.

“We want people to have a seat at the table, and to share,” Fortune said. “Challenge us, question us, make us think differently. If we’re doing the same process now that we did when I started 27 years ago, it’s probably not the right process.”

Self-paced online development tools, internal up-skilling programs, certifications for investment and insurance designations, and tuition assistance all help USAA develop and promote their staff. The company now offers tuition assistance from the first day of employment, and for any degree — lifting a previous restriction that limited staff to business-related studies.

“Now we’re saying whatever you want to do — you’re developing yourself, you’re learning, you’re hearing other people’s perspectives. That makes you a better person and it’s going to make you a better employee,” Fortune said. “You have to sometimes put your money where your mouth is.”

Tuition reimbursement is an important staff development and retention tool for Ent Credit Union, said Sarah Holland, manager of benefits and recruiting.

“We definitely promote from within, and try to help build that career path,” she said. “Challenges include finding people who are committed for the long term.”

Bob Walla, Ent’s director of employment relations and welfare, said different age groups had different career expectations, “but that’s neither here nor there.”

“I don’t care if they’re 22 or 62, if they’re interested in a career path with Ent, we will hire the best viable candidate,” he said. “From our perspective, this really is a partnership with the employee. We hope we can meet their career goals and aspirations, in turn they meet ours, and we hope it’s a 20-year, 40-year career for them.”

UMB Bank introduces recent college graduates to every part of banking through its Emerging Leaders Program, Doyle said, and that helps with retention.

“We try to match the right personality with the right role — if they’re in the right seat and they’re performing well, hopefully they’ll stay here,” he said.

In response to employee and industry feedback, Blees said BiggsKofford emphasizes a clear path to career advancement, in which employees know exactly what it takes to be promoted, and are consistently offered the support, training and guidance to do so.

“We completely retooled our promotion process and laid out a development ladder that describes what it looks like to be at every position all the way up to partner of the firm,” he said.

“We listened, we acted and people say it’s working. The name of the game is training and retention.”


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