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How to create successful employee education programs for self-directed investors

Lauren Wilson - August 9, 2018 - 0 comments

How to create successful employee education programs for self-directed investors

Supporting self-directed investors requires a high level of skill from financial institution employees. Rather than expecting advisors to provide status on their accounts or support and recommendations for specific banking instruments, self-directed investors are looking for streamlined support in executing their investment plans, including technical support and up to date and relevant market information. They expect advisers to understand the broader market and support them with urgency.

Banks and Credit Unions can help bolster their employees skills through targeted employee education programs, but it can be challenging t know where to start.

Here are some recommendations for creating successful employee education programs for self-directed investors:

Design programs to teach expertise, not sufficiency, with active support from managers

The level of financial literacy of banking employees is expected to be a high. But, it is important to remember that everyone, regardless of their expertise, has something to learn. Often employee training programs seek to bring team members to sufficiency rather than expertise,  and focus on your internal products, services and procedures.

Self-directed investors have many choices on how and where to invest their money:  stocks, bonds, funds, and other securities. It is important that your team understands and can comfortably speak to what they are and how the markets work.  The goal is to have your team think larger than your bank and to continue to build on their strong knowledge base. Your employees knowledge should push your training development team to keep ahead and continue raising the bar. Courses designed to stretch the teams knowledge should be set up to be taken at their own pace, and all training should be an active discussion point during management one-to-one sessions.

Discussion and reinforcement of the training enables your leadership team to access comfort with and retention of content, while being an active participant in the team members development. As team members develop expert knowledge in an area, provide them with  opportunities to gain extra credit by sharing their knowledge with their peers. This peer engagement enables social learning opportunities that naturally complement the individual courses and learning paths.

Provide hands-on experience

In corporate education programs, the kinesthetic, or physical hands-on, learning style is frequently overlooked. Sometimes it is bypassed due to complexity.More often, it is never considered as a requirement in the initial development. Team members can best learn how to use and provide technical instructions to clients by being users of the customer facing systems. Look for access through test or learning environments and consider developing these environments with every new system build.

Being able to not just advise on which menus to select to execute a trade but exactly where to go to find those menus is a simple but powerful positive influence on customer experience. If access to test or learning environments cannot be made available, a screenshot based simulator can be developed and used for both training and live customer support. These simulators enable your team follow the customer through the process as they discuss, live.

Another hands-on opportunity is to leverage market simulators to help your team  become self-directed investors themselves. Simulated trading competitions create a fun and competitive environment that requires participants to enhance their skills, without it feeling like ‘just another’ training course. And no two competitions are the same, making it possible to run one or two in a year without the re-certification fatigue that can come from annual required corporate courses.

Integrate gamification

As we have discussed previously, gamification offers opportunities to attract and retain millennials (and other generations) to your products and services by making it an interactive and engaging experience. Gamification can also improve engagement and motivation with corporate training. Motivation tools, such as points and merit badges, can be awarded for progress and completion. Points can be used for status through scorecards and rankings but also as currency for prizes. Prizes can range from branded swag to exclusive experiences, such as lunch with a top-executive. Merit badges can be seen as expertise levels that can be shared internally through corporate Intranet and learning development systems to identify subject matter expertise. These badges can then provide access to exclusive badge level events, such as external conferences and training.

Warren Buffett said “I learned to go into business only with people whom I like, trust, and admire.” and we agree. Your financial institution’s education program will make the difference when it comes to developing employees who are viewed as trusted advisors by your clients.  Consider your education program as an ongoing line of business, rather than a one time project. This will enable you to maintain relevance and accuracy in training materials and demonstrate the importance to your employees through the investment. Delivering the highest quality of service and standing out versus the competition is worth it. How does your organization help its team members learn and grow? Share your thoughts by getting in touch at

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