It’s been a lively start to the graduate season for Capital City Training. Whilst the team accustomed to training with banks and in classes across the world, this most recent conference was one of the largest they had ever put together. In three days of a week-long conference for an international bank, CCT took over 200 graduates on a whistle-stop tour of their future commercial banking careers.
After stepping off the ballroom stage, more fitting for an awards ceremony or theatre production, Greg Mayes, co-founder and joint managing director of Capital City Training, sat down with me to discuss the course:
Jon: “So, we’re on the second day of the conference, which seems to be going well. If you were to describe the course design, what would you say?”
Greg: “I suppose, what we’re giving them is what I would call ‘short, sharp shock treatment’. It’s an initial big-picture orientation, rather than a full blown induction, where you’re giving them a high-level overview of the business and how it fits together.
We’re covering everything around commercial banking: payments, cash and liquidity management, trade finance, loans and credit and treasury products.
A lot of our graduates won’t be from a finance background, so it’s key that they understand what the business actually is, what services it delivers to customers and how the suite of products creates a compelling customer proposition.
We’re not just delivering technical training though:
We’re bringing in client representatives and senior executives from the bank to give their perspective in panels and interviews, to add context and realism.
We’re also weaving in sessions on interpersonal skills. As new bankers, these graduates will need to know how to build rapport with clients and colleagues, especially considering the international nature of the bank they’ll be working for. We need them to learn how to engage with one another and to continue doing so moving forward in their careers.”
Jon: “With the difference in the venue and size of group, what were the main considerations or aims in the design process?”
Greg: “We immediately knew that the big danger with the volume of people and information you’re getting at this kind of conference is death by presentation. In a large auditorium, the bigger space requires you to deliver a lot more energy to get anything across, simply engaging that amount of people is a task compared to a normal classroom situation.
To this end, we’ve decided to use tech to keep them plugged in: all the material is available on their personal phones, or on rented iPads, so it’s all right there for them to investigate. But as we’re going through, we’re using polling software to throw questions at them. They just tap the answer and it’s shown on the presentation screen in real time. It’s not a new piece of tech, or a novelty for us but its been very successful, because if you do your typical show of hands, most of them won’t answer because it requires effort and for them to visibly show themselves. If you give them a gadget to use, it’s a generational thing, and they won’t worry about getting it wrong because it’s done anonymously.
Finding this kind of interactive approach in all parts of the course has been so central to running this type of training conference:
We have networking exercises where graduates have to physically get up and move around. We’ve had a competition on strategic prioritization, where teams have to manage a bank’s priorities, scored by a program we developed. It’s a simplified version of a bank forecasting algorithm we use in our Bank analysis and bank credit programs.
When we go through Delta One derivatives – what are forwards, what are futures etc. – we’ll use a live exercise: as we go through, people have to design a balance sheet using foreign exchange currency matching and forwards to manage the impact of currency variability on both balance sheet and income statement. We get so used to seeing derivatives and products being taught from a trader’s perspective, rather than solving a problem for a client and seeing the impact of different hedges on the accounts and earnings – i.e. the things clients are actually trying to manage.
And this is something we don’t see our competitors doing as well. We’ve managed to cram a huge amount of content as well as approaches to delivery into the three days we have: activities, senior presentation, case studies, competitions, and we’re delivering all of that in a very efficient way, without needing 200 laptops and mountains of paper.
It’s only three days of training, and usually you would just go out and deliver it, but with this scale of operation and the unique nature of the course we’re running, there are so many pieces and people that slot together to make it work. The man-hours that have gone into the preparation have been higher but also more necessary than any project we’ve run before, and the payoff has been worth it.
So, it’s been a bit of a change from the usual training we do.”
I caught up with Mark Woolhouse, the other half of the founder and managing director duo, a few days after the close of the conference. Considering how successful Greg believed the conference to be, I wanted to hear Mark’s perspective on how the three days had shaken out:
Jon: “It’s been just under a week since you were on stage and in the classroom at the O2. How did you think the conference went and what were the aims going in?”
Mark: “Although it was quite short, it’s been our most challenging training conference yet; instead of using largely standard materials – with tailored case studies around standard topics – we ran a very short, high-impact event. We had to deliver a core overview of the technical products of the bank so that when these graduates reach their desks, they have some conception of how the organization they’re going into fits together.
I think our course was really trying to solve perhaps one of the biggest problems for these large un-integrated banks namely, ‘Silos’.
It’s a classic banking phrase; the idea is that each of these different departments is a silo, secure, isolated and the people working inside aren’t just employees but lethal weapons waiting to be let loose on clients. What this metaphor, really means is that information doesn’t travel, because it’s a locked down and secure environment.
Regulatory information barriers, “Chinese Walls” and the pressure of day to day business mean that many people don’t look outside of their part of the business. They don’t communicate effectively.
And, most importantly to us, it’s very easy when junior people come into a business, even if they’re doing rotations, to get lost in these silos. They don’t get the chance to see the bigger picture or how the groups interact with each other at a higher level.
A key message everyone needs to get from day one is that banks are no longer trying to be a series of silos, launching different products at a client. Banks instead typically want to provide integrated solutions, and to develop a deeper, consultative relationship with a client where they understand the businesses strategic objectives. That type of joined-up thinking, that we try and promote, is the holy grail of almost every integrated commercial and investment bank today.”
Jon: “And so the course managed to solve that problem?”
Mark: “Well, what we did was use these large, overarching case studies to create a thread through the three days of content. This was explicitly designed to make the graduates join the dots and see the course as a cohesive body of knowledge rather than a series of separate skills and topics, just as it is a full, cohesive service that creates a hugely valuable proposition for a client. Hopefully they should’ve found this when they presented to actual banking relationship managers at the end of the week.”
Jon: “Were they any other goals or difficulties in designing the course would you say?”
Mark: “In general, it forced us to bring every tool we’ve used in different contexts to one place, which I suppose is what we wanted the graduates to learn to do as well. We also flexed our delivery in terms of designing web-based apps instead of excel programs, and the beauty of the tech is that we managed to engage such a large group of people in real time in a range of activities.
But then again, I suppose for people like us managing a group of 10 or 200 is just a matter of scale. It’s not a fundamentally different day to what we’ve done every day at Capital City Training in the last 8 years or what we’ve done over our training careers in the last 20 years.
This was something we took on without any fear because a big part of what a firm like us does is project management. What you’ll find with us is that there is no standard bank-wide program because the franchise or event is always markedly different depending on what part of the world you’re in and who your audience is. For example, the scale and focus in Latin America will be vastly different to that of the US, or Europe. Or in Saudi Arabia, for example, products we may usually teach like convertible bonds are impractical due to the old-fashioned laws on dilutive stock issuance. We routinely tailor our content to be local around the world, and I suppose the challenge here was making something that felt international. For example, we expressly designed case studies with either multinational or non-UK based companies.
I think when we started CTT, we were more parochial: pre-crunch businesses had always been able to operate within the UK with an international clientele. But post-crunch as we grew, our clients have asked us to deliver globally. It was therefore a natural path to growth for us to take our expertise internationally. This approach, which this conference has equally demanded of us, I think has made us a more interesting, well-rounded and up-to-date business for it.”
Jon: “I suppose all I have to ask now is what do you have planned in the near future?”
Mark: “Well, we’ll be turning away from Commercial banking for the rest of the season and back to investment banking and corporate finance.”
Jon: “Is that a different skill-set?”
Mark: Absolutely, but it’s one of our specialties. What we tried to do from day one at CCT was to be multi-disciplinary. My view was that the best thing we could do to differentiate ourselves for clients was to be able to do interdisciplinary courses – helping break down those silos again and help people interface more effectively across the organization and with clients. So that’s meant a diverse team – we’ve ex-investment bankers, traders , fund managers ,credit analysts, equity researchers, project financiers, commercial banking relationship managers, trade and cash management specialists . We even have some block-chain technologists working with us. We have also developed into management development training to help us provide joined-up comprehensive solutions for clients.