Just as in most areas of financial services and other industry sectors, the norms for jobs and careers are evolving rapidly. Many of the common elements of how we work today would have seemed quite foreign in 2012. Even the way we talk about work has changed, with phrases like “hybrid roles,” “the Great Resignation,” and “quiet quitting” peaking and then fading at unprecedented rates.
Loan market solutions have also experienced those shifts, both as a market and specifically here at Wilmington Trust. But turbulence aside, we see what is happening as a net benefit for teams, corporate cultures, and the level and quality of service delivered to loan stakeholders. Loan professionals at every level are making more conscious choices about the roles they take and where work fits in their overall lives. The end result is greater engagement and the reinforcement of essential valuable skills.
The Long Tail of the Pandemic
Many trends we are seeing were either triggered or intensified by the impacts of COVID-19. But the enduring use of remote collaboration tools is only the tip of the iceberg.
In the wake of 9/11, many New York-based teams resumed work in contingency locations and ultimately returned to a fixed office location. Across the financial sector, teams continued to interact with each other and with clients in largely the same ways.
“Hybrid teams allow us to draw on deeper talent pools, which gives fresh perspectives to the team and clients.” — James Pollock, Relationship Management Unit Manager, joined team in July 2022
Even though the need for business continuity remained the same, March 2020 was a very different historical moment. Bandwidth, hardware, mobile, and many other technological innovations made a wholesale shift to remote work possible. On the surface, they also opened the door to ongoing remote or hybrid work. For example, even as we return to normal, it is rare for 100% of the Wilmington Trust Loan Market Solutions team to sit in the same office. Moreover, remote collaboration has become a standard component in servicing client transactions.
But in our experience, the more meaningful shift was below the surface. The start of the pandemic called for significant flexibility and adaptability for everything from using loan systems to working on loan documents. It also raised the bar on soft capabilities such as relationship-building, problem-solving, self-awareness, and self-starting. These traits have improved the texture of how we work together as teams and address our clients’ needs.
At the same time, the improvements we see have introduced new and complex challenges. We see them at two levels: first, loan operations and processes, and second, team culture and performance. The culture dimension is key. As Adobe recently found in a recent workplace study, over three-quarters of employees said they are looking for a more supportive work culture to motivate and retain them.1
In today’s labor market, companies are willing to recruit talented people without limiting searches to geography. For example, a “golden goose” candidate with operational expertise and technical proficiency in Denver might be hired and join a team based in Dallas. Succeeding under those conditions requires expanding focus on onboarding and training.
“[During onboarding] we have weekly meetings to discuss questions and hard topics on top of our individual training.” — Marietou Bagayoko, Relationship Management Client Administrator, joined team in August, 2022
On the Loan Market Solutions team, we have handled this phenomenon by investing more hours in training upfront, setting up peer partnerships and mentorship that act as a kind of buddy system. Loans are a complex asset class. Ensuring new team members feel comfortable asking questions helps sustain the impact of those onboarding activities. Moreover, as we learned over time, this comfort level is just as important to new employees. It drives more knowledge sharing and collaboration among employees regardless of their tenure.
“Having a dedicated peer partner is integral to success in the onboarding process. A specific person who can answer questions and help with new tasks has been extremely productive.” — Kurt Kurman, Relationship Management Client Administrator, joined team in August 2022
Management also regularly checks in with all staff rather than only in formal performance conversations. The goal is to find more intentional ways to show appreciation and recognition. In a hybrid context, these generate more than warm feelings. They reinforce behaviors and skills that are meaningful to the entire team. As a result, engagement is more of a two-way street that we work on systematically because team relationships require more sustained cultivation. It creates new opportunities for cohesiveness.
An additional benefit of this level of engagement is process improvement. Servicing a loan often requires creativity in finding the best way to deliver within the terms and conditions of individual deals. Junior staff often find innovative ways to complete tasks. They are not complacent, and as digital natives, they may discover new ways to use the technology at their disposal. We are seeing them share those solutions with job aids to help colleagues and updates to procedures that benefit other teams as well.
Giving team members room to make an impact adds a “bottom-up” dimension to the way we create culture. Culture, in turn, anchors teams in a sense of shared purpose. Adobe also found that half of employees and two-thirds of managers have higher expectations for a purpose-driven culture. Digital solutions and a sense of purpose correlate to individuals believing in their ability to shape their organizational culture.1
“Culture is not just talking about treating employees well, but actually doing it and feeling it. Knowing that people want you to be here and teach you things benefits you beyond just your job description.” — Chelsea Borowiec, Middle Admin Client Administrator, joined in March 2022
Working Where Change is Happening
Loan platforms and data toolsets are evolving quickly, as discussed in several earlier Loan Market Insights articles. In addition, factors such as LIBOR and a changing interest rate climate have brought a lot of new developments to loans as an asset class. We are finding that both technology and industry change have increased the level of interest in loan market careers. As a provider of loan market services, we see the industry’s evolution from many angles, and our team-based approach exposes people to a broad range of tasks and problems to solve.
“In loans, you work with a sophisticated ecosystem of professionals and complex structures. You're also dealing with very professional clients and supportive colleagues.” — James Pollock
The mix of collaboration technology and loan platforms creates hooks for ongoing professional development. Whether people are more inclined to grow into people management, process improvement, product, or client management, they have a chance to explore and build their strengths. There is also more diversity in backgrounds, professional experience, geographic location, and generations. It takes a lot of emotional intelligence to flourish in the environment that has emerged, which adds additional motivation for people who are natural learners and growers.
The Power of Relationships
While the nature of work has changed, it still sits on a foundation of interpersonal relationships, both digital and in-person. Internally, focusing on relationships means supporting each other is as important as managing or being managed. The same philosophy applies to client relationships. Although we are returning to familiar formats such as industry conferences and client events, we see much more room for one-on-one interactions, even as simple as picking up the phone rather than sending an email.
We also are mindful of similar changes within the organizations of lenders, borrowers, and service providers within the loans ecosystem. People are changing jobs, beginning new roles in non-traditional ways, and bringing new expectations to the table. It represents another layer of change in how we interact with each other as people learn how to sustain relationships under a new set of conditions.
The changes we have seen recently have drawn a lot of discussion about the future of work. We see them as a natural evolution of workplace dynamics and culture. As norms continue to change, they also open new possibilities for creating team cultures of mutual support dedicated to doing things better. We are excited to see what comes next.