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June 17, 1999 Washington, D.C. Vol. 10, No.12


     When financial institutions and remittance processors want to provide specific, interactive When financial institutions and remittance processors want to provide specific, interactive training for their line workers, there aren’t many choices. They can either send new recruits to expensive classes or purchase a system from Abby Inc. Users of computer-based training programs have found they benefit in two ways:

     By not having top keying operators teach new employees, organizations reap the full productivity of their skilled people; and Training itself is more effective because it's standardized, with measurable benchmarks for trainees.

No Looking Back

     “I don’t want to go back to where we were before,” says Marsha Tower, proof manager for what used to be Norwest’s services division but has since folded into Wells Fargo & Co. [WFC], with headquarters in San Francisco. “That was basically on-the-job training.”
Not only did the old way slow production, but messages either didn’t get communicated appropriately or communicated at all to new recruits, Tower says.

     Taking an interactive approach, the Rock Hill, S.C., training company combines digitized speech, video, a booklet and feedback from the workstation in its system. In addition, Abby customizes all parts of the experience so trainees see only the documents of the employing institution and learn simply “how we do things around here” -not another company’s workflow or paperwork.

     “I like the interaction because it requires extra effort on the part of trainees,” says Beverly Gillem, training specialist at Baltimore-based First Maryland Bancorp, soon to be officially renamed Allfirst Financial Inc. “That way, when they get to live work, it's easier for them, which is good.”

     To the best knowledge of all the people with whom IPR spoke, including Abby President Ken Evans, no other, similar system is available. Sherry Conway, operations and training manager at $18 billion-in-assets First Maryland, says she found one other training program but it was comprised only of a special keypad for teaching 10-key skills and a set of cassette tapes. Abby appears to have cornered the market for full-scale, semi-independent training.

     Making the initial purchase was almost a no-brainer, agree Tower and Conway. “In all honesty, the original justification was difficult but the actual return on investment was quickly realized -so much so that it was not a hard sell,” Tower says.

     At approximately $25,000 for an average installation- $14,900 for development and $3,600 for each training station -the Abby system would be hard not to cost justify. Returning several high-speed operators to their primary jobs earns back the outlay in a year or so. In fact, both banks are waiting for Abby to supply a system for corrections operators, something Evans says is in development.

Necessary Variations

     Like First Maryland, Wells Fargo employs one person whose main responsibility is to watch over the trainees, answer their questions, check work and provide one-on-one help as needed. Both banks also improvise in various areas of training in order to furnish what they view is a complete education in proof.

     Conway and Gillem, for instance, add daily speed drills after the first week or so because the department standard is 1,600 fields per hour keyed and the department average is 2,000 fields per hour -much more than the 1,500 items that Abby promises for the average trainee.      Although Proof Performer parameters are variable, the trainers find it useful to have operators doing 15 minutes of speed work a day. Conway knows the best proof operators are the ones who will stay because they can earn the incentives First Maryland pays for accurate, high-volume work.

     Variety is key for Tower. “Because of the way Abby trains in specific modules, we actually use the time between modules to give the trainees a break and train them how to do some of the other functions in the proof area,” she says. “That seems to help with information overload that occurs so often with training of any kind.”

     Neither institution uses the tracking capability built in to the system, which involves sending
statistics to Abby and receiving a report. They both prefer to do their own monitoring. But Evans says such oversight is included in the purchase price and would help the banks improve their performance, as well as aid Abby in its development.

     “We like for them to do it [send performance data] so we can see trends. We can also tell whether they’re using the system to its full capability,” he says.

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