I was on an accelerated Management Development program at my large European bank when I participated in a challenging banking simulation. I had been with the company for 4 years and joined straight from University. I started working in regional branches, mostly on the credit side and after a couple of years I was moved to head office and joined the central treasury function. I graduated with a good arts degree although I am also reasonably numerate.
When I was assigned to join the Global Banker simulation as part of my training plan I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had tried a couple of business simulations, and I tended to regard them as games, but previous participants told me the Global Banker simulation was brilliant. They called it challenging, compelling and fun and said I would learn a lot – fast! Given that the location was a hotel way out in the country I admit to being sceptical and there would be no easy escape.
Twenty of us gathered on a gloomy winter Monday morning to get started. I knew a couple of the participants. Others I recognised by sight but most I did not know at all. Chatting over coffee before the first session I discovered there was a surprising range of people from almost every division in the bank and there was a wide range of age and experience too. There were people from the branches, from head office and a couple from our overseas offices. They came from lending, credit, audit, IT, law, compliance, securities, treasury and HR. It was a diverse mix and I did wonder how this could ever work.
Our first session, conducted by a very enthusiastic and dynamic instructor, gave an overview of the structure of the program and then we introduced ourselves. We spoke about our current jobs, previous experience and our particular professional interests and goals.
We had already received a detailed participants manual and completed an online quiz. This first session elaborated on that and explained the economic environment which had been created for our banking simulation. We were encouraged to participate and ask questions and a lively discussion followed.
By the coffee break one of the ACF team had assigned us to our teams, based on our experience and knowledge. Each team was a mix of skills and experience. In my team I had a person from IT, someone from audit, an HR L&D manager, a corporate lending specialist and I was from treasury.
We retired to our Corporate HQ to study the balance sheet of the simulated bank we were taking over and to formulate a corporate plan. Most of the time, for the rest of the program, was spent in our bank teams. It was a highly collaborative, team building experience and, of course, top of our list of goals and objectives was TO WIN!
The instructors circulated between syndicate rooms offering advice, asking questions and giving explanations. Once our analysis of the balance sheet was completed, and our corporate plans submitted, it was time for lunch. The spirit of competition was already well alight and we strategized over lunch. This was followed by a plenary session on the next topics we would have to make decisions on. Then it was back to our HQ’s to make the crucial decisions that would take our bank to the next stage.
We all started with exactly the same bank and it was up to us to improve it.
The sessions raced by – plenary sessions for next stage decisions, questions and discussion, followed by our strategic decision making - and then the results! It was very motivating immersive learning. I learned a lot from my team mates and they from me.
There were some arguments and disagreements during decision making, but part of the process was learning to negotiate and to see the other person’s point of view. It was surprising how eager we all were to get our results and to see how our bank was doing compared to the others. We wanted “our bank” to be that line shooting ahead on the chart.
Sometimes we went up and sometimes our decisions did not work out as we hoped. The instructor, who had an amazing degree of knowledge and experience, pointed out our errors and encouraged us to address them in the next round. We never felt we might as well give up, and that was true for all of the teams.
This banking simulation is very sophisticated and it does not respond to teams who try to “play the system”. You learn very quickly that this is a serious exercise and not a game. Every simulated year end we had a “board meeting” where the huge amount of data in the programme was mined to illustrate how our bank was doing against the competitors. Those sessions were very enlightening and especially motivating. After them we wanted to get back to our HQ and kick ass.
The three days zoomed by and I would have happily done more. I learned a ton, not least how not to be siloed and to see how every division and department of a big bank influences the whole and how everything fits together. Our bank is a leviathan and this was a revelation for me and the others on the programme.
This was a learning experience such as I had never had before and I highly recommend it. This banking simulation should be mandatory for anyone either in a key role in a commercial bank or anyone moving towards a management role.
My team mate in HR L&D told me that for the first time she really understood the business her clients are in. I met a guy who had been with the firm 15 years and he said he too had learned so much that that was new that he could apply immediately. He is also someone I now know I can call when I have questions, even though he is senior and not someone I would normally have had easy access to.
Not only did we bond as a team, but as a group. Now, when I have an issue or a question in some other division I have the confidence to contact them or someone they recommend. Also I can now understand their issues and how decisions made in my division impact theirs.
It was a great few days. We forgot the damp and the gloom and the isolation. When I emerged, blinking, at the end I felt I had really achieved something – even though we didn’t WIN and get the trophy. We came a close second though! Next time guys!
The name of the participant and the bank have been withheld for confidentiality reasons. If you are interested in running a Global Banker based program for your firm and would like references, please contact us and we will put you in touch with relevant people.