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Company: Bank of America
Category: Best Use of Games and Simulations for Learning

Nomination: Academy Client Engagement Simulators (ACES)



Bank of America is focused on serving the financial needs of our clients. To ensure all employees are equipped to provide the world-class service clients expect and deserve, it is critical to invest in acquiring, developing, and retaining talent. The Academy, created in 2016, is the onboarding, training, and development organization that prepares over 80,000 employees in the Consumer Bank, Merrill and Private Bank to successfully and confidently serve the needs of our clients.

The Academy developed Academy Client Engagement Simulators (ACES) to create lifelike practice environments that are clones of systems teammates use to serve clients. ACES allows teammates to practice common client transactions using real-world scenarios in a simulated environment, combining multiple learning activities within a single training module.

The first ACES guided practice simulator was introduced in 2018 with 26 modules made available to 30,000 teammates.

Prior to ACES, PowerPoints and web-based trainings were used to learn systems which did not provide the skills, confidence, or understanding of how to navigate the system end-to-end, and didn’t offer the opportunity to “practice” real-life scenarios. From an operational risk perspective, the “old” way of learning systems was costly and increased the risk of having outdated training materials.

In 2019, The Academy introduced a new style ACES known as Practice Labs, allowing teammates to practice real-world scenarios by providing an opportunity to select a variety of learning options within a specific subject matter area. Practice Labs also featured Show-Me and Do-It options for more guidance.

At the end of 2019, 140,000 lessons were completed saving approximately 140,000 hours of training, equating to over 75,000 capacity hours saved through this simulator.

Two additional ACES simulators were introduced in 2019 to support more than 30,000 teammates. Currently, there are over 250 lessons available. We continue to improve and expand the features of the tool throughout 2020, bringing more capabilities for learners to leverage.

ACES works to improve knowledge, retention, and client experiences while reducing errors. ACES allows teammates to build proficiency quickly by reducing the seat time needed in traditional classroom training and reducing commonly made mistakes made by new-to-role teammates who conduct client business in the live system before they have practiced.

ACES also has the ability to maintain learning materials so that they are aligned with the most current versions of system releases and regulatory changes. It can also turn around updates in an average of five to six business days, resulting in assurance across the enterprise that quality and current compliance parameters are built into every learning simulation, virtually eliminating the risk of out-of-date learning materials.

In 2018, research was conducted through a third party to identify best-in-class training and development organizations. Through this research, we learned that while many were intrigued by simulations and were exploring it, few had deployed it.

ACES, a first of its kind simulator at Bank of America, was created after teammates expressed that they wanted the opportunity to practice on systems before interacting with clients. We created simulations that are seamless and impactful so teammates can focus on learning products, services and exceeding client expectations. There are currently four simulators available with plans to launch four more by the end of 2020.

ACES was designed to allow learners to practice at any pace without the need for a facilitator. ACES provides real-time coaching in three ways:

1. Learners can attempt high-risk scenarios in a safe and interactive learning environment; the stress and time pressure from real-life situations is eliminated, giving the learner the opportunity to move through the lesson at a comfortable pace and repeat as often as needed, building confidence in handling complicated tasks

2. Access to instant, actionable feedback mitigates the tendency for learners to assume incorrect behaviors or take unnecessary shortcuts that can be detrimental to the client experience and job performance

3. Encourages teammates to actively participate in the learning experience, removing the fear and embarrassment that can result from providing an incorrect answer in a classroom setting

ACES is packaged into a dedicated learning pathway, allowing published simulations to be centrally housed “for one-stop shopping.”