Actio redesigned a new-hire underwriting training process to emphasize case-based instruction with whole-task practice that mirrored real work.

The Challenge

A client in international banking needed to improve their underwriting technical skills training process to deliver better-trained underwriters. There were numerous challenges.

New hire training took too long, lasting about two months. Post-training results were poor. The curriculum was organized by topic and by instructor availability. As each new cohort started, the training team juggled the calendar and module/topic sequence to get most or all the puzzle pieces in place. As a result, flow from one module to the next was inconsistent – and the logic of the flow between topics often didn’t make sense to the learners.

Their training was primarily instructor-led and taught by subject or domain experts – who didn’t benefit from instructional design support or experience. Over time, these experts developed and used enormous PowerPoint decks that:

  • Covered more content than was needed (often inserting “Master’s level” content where only a basic knowledge was required)

  • Went down rabbit holes of exciting one-offs or exceptions

  • Made training long on lecture and short on practice.

Without solid instructional design, training was hit and miss.

Current training failed to consider the range of learners, which included new hires with experience in financial services and new hires with limited to no knowledge of financial concepts or principles.

The bank’s hiring strategy focused on recruiting and selecting driven and successful college graduates from top universities. (hired because they graduated at the top of their class from a top university – evidence the individual had the desire, drive, and capability to succeed).

The Goals

The goals for the redesigned training included:

  • Incorporate performance-based learning

  • Use whole-task practice

  • Shift from instructor-led to eLearning-based instruction combined with realistic practice, observation, feedback, and coaching

Because underwriting is about risk identification and mitigation, approving or declining an application is rarely black and white. Instead, decisions often reflect nuanced analyses and trade-offs that minimize or eliminate the bank’s risk while allowing them to make the loan. Underwriters make recommendations backed by analysis results, data, and judgment. The training – particularly the practice scenarios – needed to reveal how well the underwriter could shape the story of the deal, provide sufficient rationale for their recommendation, and persuade decision-makers.

The client agreed that training and the associated practice should reflect scenarios made up of representative complexities and trade-offs. Therefore, based on organizational data, and input from top performers, the design team defined more than a dozen scenarios based on complexity and difficulty – using factors such as loan purpose, borrower’s creditworthiness, the quality, and classification of the underlying asset, etc.

The Solution

Actio developed a blended learning solution consisting of approximately 18 hours of eLearning, 4 hours of virtual instructor-led modules, and several days of engineered whole-task practice with structured coaching. Step-by-step instruction followed by case practice offered learners the chance to apply newly learned skills concretely. Performance assessments, built on real-world scenarios, provided coaches and managers with insight into each learner’s strengths and opportunities for improvement. The training also included links and pathways to existing resources and related materials for those who lacked knowledge of foundational financial concepts or principles.

Company Bio

This bank has quickly helped innovative companies and their investors move bold ideas forward. It provides targeted financial services and expertise through its offices in innovation centers worldwide. With commercial, international, and private banking services, this firm helps address the unique needs of innovators. With assets of more than $97 billion, this bank is among the top 40 in the U.S.