A Credit Union Career Isn’t For Me. Change My Mind. (Part 3)

Industry leaders talk about how they cultivated a career in credit unions and how credit unions across the United States can recruit enthusiastic employees to fill tomorrow’s leadership bench.

 
 

Research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) puts the direct cost of replacing an employee at as much as 50%-60% of an employee’s annual salary. Total costs associated with that turnover can range from 90% to 200% of annual salary. That’s a lot of moola to manage when an employee moves on.

What’s more, the same research found even a tight employment market has little impact on the turnover of top-performing employees. Yes, even during a recession — and even during a pandemic — good employees will leave for greener pastures. And if the trade news is any indication, good executives will retire.

Quarterly performance data shows credit unions have avoided laying off employees during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdowns. Instead, anecdotal evidence suggests, they’ve opted to redeploy staff members to support areas of increased demand, such as call centers and mortgage departments. But what about the other side of that equation? How can credit unions attract new talent? And, once they have that talent in-house, how can credit unions keep it there?

CreditUnions.com reached out to prominent leaders across the credit union industry to ask them three questions:

  • How did you get started in the credit union industry?
  • How can credit unions recruit young workers? Why is that important?
  • How would you “sell” a young executive on why they should enter the credit union field?

Related Resource: More leaders offer advice on how to recruit enthusiastic employees to fill tomorrow’s leadership roles. Read more in "A Credit Union Career Isn’t For Me. Change My Mind. (Part 1)" and “A Credit Union Career Isn’t For Me. Change My Mind. (Part 2)”.

Ray Springsteen, CEO, Abound Federal Credit Union ($1.7B, Radcliff, KY)

How did you get started in the credit union industry?

Ray Springsteen, CEO, Abound FCU

Ray Springsteen: I was lucky. I found credit unions through Callahan & Associates when I was 22 years old. During eight years at Callahan, I had the opportunity to:

  • Learn from credit union leaders. I interacted with a generation of leaders who were so passionate about credit unions they called it a movement. I adopted the same words early on and began to understand what the movement has been able to do for consumers’ lives.
  • See the inner workings of credit unions. In my roles at Callahan, I interacted with credit unions across the United States. I saw how investments worked and discussed them with credit union CFOs. I participated in strategic planning sessions at large and small credit unions, wrote articles about technology, and interviewed credit union IT professionals. I even worked with credit union accounts payable departments collecting on slow pays for Callahan directories.
  • Understand what influences credit unions. Being in DC, I attended public meetings for associations and regulators and even attended some of the House Financial Services hearings in the late ’90s. This gave me a sense of what influenced credit union unions and the decisions their leaders made.

The opportunity to participate in so many aspects of the credit union industry had a big influence on my career choice. It gave me the chance to see how credit unions, and those who influence credit unions, make a difference in the lives of members.

How can credit unions recruit young workers? Why is that important?

Ray Springsteen

Abound FCU
President/CEO, 2009-present
EVP, 2012-2014
SVP, 2009-2012

Callahan & Associates
VP of Business Development, 1993-2001, 2007-2009

Service Credit Union
SVP of Member Service, 2001-2007

RS: Credit unions generally have great cultures, an incredible mission to serve members, and lots of opportunities to learn and do more. When young people learn this, credit unions can compete with other organizations to recruit talented young people.

Connecting with schools has been one of the better ways Abound recruits young workers. We support a Work Ready designation for a local school system and conduct mock interviews. This has helped create some opportunities. We also created a relationship with a local university with about 20,000 students. We have met with the dean of its business school, spoken to business classes, and discussed research ideas. We also have an intern program with the college, which has allowed students to experience the credit union and potentially work for us after college.

We hired one intern, Abigail McGraw, after graduation to work in analytics. Abby is a great example of the type of person we try to recruit out of college. She makes an impact immediately, has amazing ideas, and influences how we think about serving members.

“It gives me a chance to take the skills I have learned in a completely different direction,” Abigail McGraw, an intern at Abound Credit Union, told WKU News in a student spotlight. Read more.

How would you “sell” a young executive on why they should enter the credit union field?

RS: A career in credit unions gives you the opportunity to:

  • Impact the lives of consumers. An executive at a credit union will have an impact on the lives of thousands of people. Every day, consumers come to the credit union with ridiculous loan rates from other financial institutions. We’ll turn these loans, usually with rates exceeding 20%, to a 5% credit union loan and save the member thousands of dollars. This does two things for members. First, the loan will save a member and their family money. Second, we’ll likely change the way that member sees banking forever because they’ll never pay 20% on a loan again.
  • Work with a group of selfless people who care about what they do. To be good at impacting members’ lives, credit unions recognize they also must impact the lives of team members. At a credit union, you’ll find a group of smart, hardworking, passionate people.
  • Collaborate with communities. Credit unions look for ways to work with others. We have collaborated within the credit union industry and with community partners for our entire existence.
  • Grow your career and become a leader. Credit unions are not stagnant. We are all looking for ways to better impact the lives of members. Because of this, there will be new opportunities within the organization for team members to continue learning, grow careers, and lead.

Related Resource: Doug Fecher, CEO of Wright-Patt Credit Union, talks about strategies to entice up-and-coming leaders in "How To Stand Out In A Field Of Potential Employers."

Soma Sarkar, Executive Vice President/COO, Credit Union of New Jersey ($357.3M, Ewing, NJ)

Soma Sarkar, Executive Vice President/COO, Credit Union of New Jersey

How did you get started in the credit union industry?

Soma Sarkar: I started my career in a bank and heard about credit unions from a family member who worked for a company that talked about the benefits of joining a credit union. The credit union provided great financial services and low loan rates. And, the people who worked there were very pleasant. That is what I knew about credit unions.

In 1994, I saw a job posting for a branch manager at a credit union, then known as NJ DOT Credit Union, and thought I should apply because it was close to home and I was intrigued to hear from my family member the positive things about credit unions. I was hired as a branch manager and am still here 25 years later as the executive vice president/chief operating officer.

We have gone through a lot of positive changes, including a name change. Now, we are known as the Credit Union of New Jersey. When I started, we were at $42 million in assets and 12,000 members. Now, we are at $340+ million in assets, and 38,000 members with 5 branches. It has been a rewarding experience. I am honored to be part of the credit union movement.

How can credit unions recruit young workers? Why is that important?

Soma Sarkar

Credit Union of New Jersey
EVP/COO, 2012-present
SVP of Operations, 2010-2012
VP of Operations, 2003-2010
Director of Branch Operations, 2000-2003
Branch Manager, 1994-2000

Sovereign Bank
RBS, 1986-1994

SS: Younger generations look for flexibility, stability, competitive salary, good benefits, and a culture that supports individual growth and recognition. Keeping this is mind, credit unions need to have a presence on social media like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Younger generations spend a good amount of time on social media. They want to know and learn about the company they might select for their career; therefore, it is important for a credit to use multiple media channels.

It is important to recruit young workers because they can connect easily with young members. They are more flexible and easily adapt to technology. Also, we need more young people to know about credit unions, and by recruiting young workers, we are setting the stage to push the credit union movement forward in the future.

How would you “sell” a young executive on why they should enter the credit union field?

SS: It is important to sell your credit union’s value proposition. Also, how does the compensation compare to the market? Finally, talk to the young executive about the current executive team in place and how they work cohesively under the CEO’s leadership.

Silvia Rincon, Vice President of Communications and Brand Management, Latino Community Credit Union ($518.2M, Durham, NC)

Silvia Rincon, Vice President of Communications and Brand Management, Latino Community Credit Union

How did you get started in the credit union industry?

Silvia Rincon: When I first started working in finance, my familiarity with credit unions was somewhat limited. It wasn’t until I got my first auto loan at a credit union that I realized the value that financial cooperatives can offer their members. After seven years of working at a bank in Chicago, I made the transition to the credit union industry. I haven’t looked back once!

How can credit unions reach young workers? Why is that important?

SR: Our ability to recruit young workers rests in the nature of the work that we do in our community. Across the country, young people are increasingly dedicated to devoting their time and energy to make a positive socio-economic impact. When young job seekers research LCCU, they see we offer more than a paycheck. They see we offer the opportunity to engage in their communities and foster an inclusive economy that works for everyone. Recruitment, however, is just the beginning. Once newly hired employees arrive for their first day on the job, they realize everything they researched about LCCU is more than flashy marketing. We don’t just talk the talk. We walk the walk.

Silvia Rincon

Latino Community Credit Union
VP of Communications and Brand Management, 2013-present

Corporate America Family Credit Union
Assistant Branch Manager, 2011-2012

Hawthorne Credit Union
Financial Services Representative, 2009-2011

Citi
Personal Banker, 2007-2009

Providing this kind of meaningful employment for young workers is essential because it equips them with the knowledge and skills that are necessary not only for ensuring their own wellbeing but also for promoting the wellbeing of the entire community.

How would you “sell” a young executive on why they should enter the credit union field?

SR: A great place to start would be a brief comparison between credit unions and mainstream financial institutions. As unsustainable income inequality has become one of the foremost issues on the national radar, the cooperative and member-owned structure of credit unions — community and economic development credit unions in particular — serves as a refreshing alternative to the mainstream profit-driven financial system in which we currently operate.

Across the globe, we are seeing the credit union movement unfold, and with it, financial wellbeing is becoming a reality rather than just a distant dream for people the world over. Right now, young executives have the opportunity to be a part of this movement and leverage their skills to strengthen their communities.

Carlos Calderon, President/CEO, OAS Staff Federal Credit Union ($236.9M, Washington, DC)

Carlos Calderon, President/CEO, OAS Staff FCU

How did you get started in the credit union industry?

Carlos Calderon: I got started in the credit union industry by accident. I didn’t know much about credit unions. Having just graduated with an information system’s degree, I was looking for a job in IT. There was an opening at a credit union, which I took.

While working, the credit union culture and the mission were confusing to me, to the point where I was going to quit. But, then I found out about the DE program [Credit Union Development Education from NCUF]. It was one of the experiences that made the biggest difference to me. It helped me understand credit union philosophy and what the movement is all about — “People helping people.” The DE program put everything into perspective because my personal values aligned with the philosophy. Once I understood about mission and values, that really resonated with me.

How can credit unions reach young workers? Why is that important?

Carlos Calderon

OAS Staff FCU
President/CEO, 2003-present

U.S. Postal Service FCU
VP of Operations, 1986-2003

CC: Let’s start with why it’s important. It is the future of the industry. The new generation understands value and is looking to make a difference. It is important to bring them on board.

How to do that? Being able to convey to them that we are people helping people and are not for profit. We offer a career path in which they’ll be able to make a difference in the world. This is what credit unions do. Once they understand credit unions offer a value-based culture, it will be easier to attract and keep them in the movement. But if we fail at this, it will be difficult to get their attention.

How would you “sell” a young executive on why they should enter the credit union field?

CC: Credit unions are designed to provide banking and financial solutions with a heart. We can make a difference in the world.

These interviews have been edited and condensed.

Want more credit union strategies? Sign up for the CreditUnions.com free newsletter.