Community and regional banks are dealing with a range of serious challenges.

Aside from the issues of COVID-19 and a bumpy economy facing every business, regional banks must contend with digitalization, FinTechs, and shifting regulations.

There’s no doubt that effective leadership is essential for navigating these changes and capitalizing on the opportunities afforded by disruption. Unfortunately, statistics show that roughly half of all new executives fail within 18 months.

This number underlines the importance of working with the right executive search partner and using a tried-and-tested search process. Drawing on my own experience in this line of work, I’d like to outline three keys community banks need to look for in a search partner.

1) Deep Knowledge and Expertise in Community Banking

Any search firm will tell you that they know community banking. However, there’s no question some search partners know the space better than others.

At the executive level, it’s crucial you find a partner that understands how your needs differ from larger banks and other financial institutions.

To get a sense of how well a search partner understands the nuances of regional banking, ask open-ended questions.

Ask about their experience searching for executives in specific areas of banking, such as healthcare lending or equipment finance. Ask for their opinion or ideas on how community banks can best navigate challenges like digital banking in the current market.

If you ask the right questions, you’ll soon get a very good idea of whether someone truly knows your niche.

2) An Extensive Network in Regional Banking

An extensive network in regional banking is beneficial for several reasons. The obvious benefit is that they’ll have ready access to candidates in your industry, but it goes far beyond that.

A broad network in regional banking means they’ll be able to provide suggestions and ideas based on other banks’ experiences with similar challenges.

For example, if you’re hiring an executive to build out a new digital division and are uncertain how to navigate the transition, a good search partner can likely share experiences they’ve had with past clients who have dealt with the same challenge.

Even if they don’t have firsthand experience, a strong network means your search partner can reach out to their contacts to learn about how other banks have fared in similar situations. This is invaluable for spotting potential pitfalls or roadblocks far in advance.

Finally, a broad network and long-term relationships are great signs that your search partner has earned a lot of trust in this industry.

It’s always a good sign when candidates and clients stay in touch with an executive recruiter long after the placement. It’s even better if they continue to seek out the recruiters’ services.

If you’re unsure about a search partner’s network, ask for references. A good partner will have plenty to share.

3) They Ask the Right Questions

One of the most valuable things a search partner can bring to the table is helping you clarify exactly what you need in a new executive.

A great search team asks thoughtful questions to ensure they truly understand your situation, current challenges and goals. After that, they ask questions to ensure that you’re looking for the right candidate to support those goals.

Nobody knows your business and your needs like you do. However, it’s difficult to underestimate the value of an outside perspective from someone who knows your niche.

The best search partners will also leverage behavioral analytics to gain an understanding of your team, the dynamics at play, and how different candidates will fit into this chemistry. These analytics provide crucial objectivity that can be used as a springboard into more thoughtful questions on what you truly need in a new executive.

They can identify behavioral gaps in your leadership team, such as a need for a very detail and process-oriented individual, or someone who is more risk-averse than your existing team. They can also predict potential personality clashes.

In brief, behavioral analytics allow you to make better-informed decisions and know what to expect when you do bring on a new executive.

Community banks need a search partner that will take the time to understand the motivations and drivers of not just your candidates, but your existing team. It’s about finding a match where the client and candidate alike will truly thrive for the long haul.

Success Starts With Picking the Right Partner

Making your next executive placement a success starts with picking the right partner. The best executive search partners don’t just put you in touch with quality candidates, they help you refine and clarify your business strategy.

They help you get a greater understanding of how you can solve your bank’s biggest problems and execute on your goals.

If you’re interested in learning more about how we work with regional banks to help them find the right senior talent and thrive through change, contact us today.

It never hurts to get a second perspective or explore options for your next search!

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