Jeff Judy

Jeff's Thoughts - February 2 , 2011

Would You Hire the Crew from the Titanic?

There are definite signs that the economy is moving forward now, and it may even be the case that the banking industry is advancing faster than some others. As I discussed in a recent issue of Jeff's Thoughts, this can lead to some hiring, and re-hiring, of bank staff.

I pointed out in that previous article, "Hire Versus Re-hire", that as tempting as it is to hire experienced bankers, of which there are plenty on the market, it is important to remember that those employees will bring along their own culture, either from another bank, or from your own bank under very different conditions and strategies.

That was a caution, not a proscription, and that distinction becomes particularly important when we think about the job candidates that are floating around in the labor pool precisely because their own banks mismanaged their businesses and eventually were shut down. In some cases, you will want to avoid individuals from those banks like the plague.

In others, you will want to snap them up!

I have no idea whether the surviving crew from the Titanic found further employment on other ships, but it seems likely that a certain stigma followed their association with the doomed ocean liner. And in some cases, their performance on that sinking ship may have been poor, indeed.

But in other cases, surely, it was heroic. Keen perception and decisive action saved passengers, and those skills would be good to have on any ship.

In the same way, we now have a pool of job candidates who have experience with a down economy, with failing business customers, with responding to defaults and deteriorating credits. Indeed, before the recession, I often worried about the fact that many bankers had only worked in the good times, when banking was relatively easy. I wondered if they would be able to detect and respond to problems, when they inevitably arrived, quickly enough to head them off, or at least to mitigate their impact.

As we have seen, that lack of experience with troubled customers has cost many a bank dearly, in the last couple of years. Who better to strengthen your culture than bankers who have learned their lessons? You can be sure that no one in your institution will be more alert to potential problems than those who have had their own careers interrupted by the complacency of their previous employers.

If you're on a cruise and the ship hits something, wouldn't you want to be standing next to the kind of person who was able to survive -- and help others survive -- the Titanic?