Magazine article American Banker

Small Okla. Bank's Specialty: Helping Other Small Banks

Magazine article American Banker

Small Okla. Bank's Specialty: Helping Other Small Banks

Article excerpt

Spencer State Bank in Oklahoma knew in late 1998 that it needed to cut employee turnover, improve worker productivity, and boost returns.

It just didn't know how.

So the $28 million-asset bank turned to an Oklahoma community banking company, First Bethany Bancorp, and its unique consulting subsidiary, Strategic Advantage Inc.

The nation's only consulting company owned and operated by a community bank, Strategic Advantage focuses on maximizing employees' potential and otherwise improving the performance of small banks. Today, turnover among entry-level tellers and bookkeepers at Spencer is still higher than its president would like, but the bank's return on assets jumped to 2% in 1999, from about 1.5% a year earlier.

"I can't give them all the credit for that improvement, but they deserve a lot of it," said Randy Smith, Spencer's president.

Strategic Advantage, with just two employees, trains managers in areas its president says are often ignored at small banks that cannot afford full-time human resources employees.

Wholly owned by $96 million-asset First Bethany, Strategic Advantage helps Oklahoma banks develop performance reviews that spell out specific goals for workers to earn raises and promotions. Strategic Advantage also helps companies develop incentive-bonus programs that more closely tie employees' pay to bank profitability, giving workers a vested interest in their bank's success.

"Community bank supervisors and managers are loaded down with so many tasks that there's no time to focus on how their employees can improve," said Danita R. Worrell, Strategic Advantage's president. "People wander around all year and don't know if they're doing a great job or a mediocre job. Most employees get the same percentage raise each year no matter what."

Bankers said Ms. …

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