3 Steps To Moving From Transnational Banker To Trusted Advisor

Banks know that relationship management is a vital aspect of their business. Most retail banks acquire aggressively at the bottom end and grow organically through migration to top tier segments, which is a sweet spot for overall margin growth. The quality of a bank’s relationship managers (RMs) is a critical success factor in capitalising on this upwards migration.

The clients comprising this segment are high-net-worth individuals with an income from R500k depending on the bank’s segmentation model. They are entrepreneurial and therefore require banking advisors with experience in both personal and business markets. Relative to the segmentation model, it is clear that relationship banking is not a one-size fits all exercise, and different client segments require different approaches.

A good relationship manager (RM) has the potential to attract new customers, retain existing ones and make the most of the lifetime value of loyal clients by playing the role of a ‘trusted advisor’. The distinction between a transactional banker and a trusted advisor lies in the quality of advice that an RM brings to the table. A transactional banker, although efficient and capable, cannot perform nearly as effectively as a trusted advisor, who is able to match clients to the right solution each time – this is why banks are seeing the wisdom of training RMs to understand how best to meet the needs of both the client and the bank.


When we look at the role of the RM, what becomes clear is that he or she cannot simply go through the motions to satisfy a client. A depth of understanding of the client’s needs and the different stages of a client’s lifecycle is critical. To this end, RMs must work closely with clients to guide them in terms of making the right decisions with their accounts. RMs should be in a position to be able to identify every conceivable solution to a client’s problem, then help the client make the right choice by introducing specialists.

In addition, RMs’ strategic value becomes clear when one considers their potential to generate new business for the bank – after all, they are closest to any possible sales opportunities that may arise. When an RM truly understands the client, his or her potential for acquisition, right-sell, cross-sell and retention improves dramatically.

Since managing relationships with customers is critical to a bank’s long-term success , how do you ensure that your relationship managers are equipped to fulfill their potential?

What does relationship management entail?

To make the shift from transactional banker to trusted advisor, the RM has to know precisely what his or her role entails. The RM adds the personal touch to banking. Although he or she is essentially a financial advisor with specialised knowledge, the role encompasses far more than being able to explain clearly and concisely what the bank has to offer a client.

The first step is to understand that an RM puts clients first with a view to adding value at every touch-point – RMs must therefore appreciate their personal significance within the bank as they are truly ambassadors for the bank. As such, a bank has to ensure that an RM possesses certain core competencies: excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate with a wide variety of people.

This is particularly valuable because relationships change according to client segmentation. There is simply no ‘one size fits all’ approach to different client segments and the RM must understand this to create value for clients.

The second step is to appreciate that it is RMs themselves who can allow banks to differentiate themselves, since many bank products are similar. The RM is a key enabler to expansion and his or her specific skills will actually drive bank strategy. For this reason, the RM can create value for both the bank and the client by virtue of his or her unique position.


In order to have the RM engaging in the right value conversations with clients, it may be necessary to change the RM’s mindset – often, the RM has to understand why moving from selling to driving value is vital for both client and bank. Once the RM personally engages with his or her role, it will become clear that there are various skills that the RM should master to succeed, for example, being able to identify solutions to client problems and then match the right products to the client.

Once the RM’s mindset changes, behavioural changes will occur – in fact, a fundamental realignment of the RM’s belief system should take place. There is a world of difference between engaging in hard selling, for example, and being sensitive to a client’s particular needs and problems.

So now that you know what makes an RM unique within the bank, how do you enable them to engage more deeply with their role?


Here’s how the RM can become a trusted advisor to clients:

The RM should create partnerships between the bank and its clients. In a sense, the RM role is a paradox, since the RM must simultaneously create both bank and client value. The RM can only achieve this with a ‘partnership’ mindset. RMs should think about the long term, not just about making a quick sale to a client who may change allegiance tomorrow.

The RM’s primary role is to create a personal brand, which means learning a new model of sales and driving value rather than pushing products. Only the creation of value through the sale of financial products can lead to sustainable revenue growth. Hence the RM must move from the ‘low road’ to the ‘high road’ – a new approach to delivering solutions to clients through a more fluid sales methodology.

RMs need to develop their own personal brand that speaks directly to the client. This requires a fundamental shift in the way they think about themselves, but the payoff is discovering their greater purpose within the context of client service – and repositioning themselves as trusted advisors.

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