Boots on the Ground

Want to make a bigger impact on the communities you serve? Look – and listen – to your employees.


As the physical and metaphorical “face” of the institution, front-line employees are as crucial to success as any other component of a credit union’s business model. When Royal Credit Union ($1.2B, Eau Claire, WI) acquired branches, assets, and members from a local bank, it knew a primary determinate for its success in these new communities would be its local employees.

“The majority of the post acquisition phase was spent on supervisor training and expectations and training for employees determined by their struggles and observations,” says Rachel Risberg, Royal’s vice president of operations. 

With ample tools, support, and the knowledge necessary to do their jobs, 114 acquired staff members from Anchor Bank became Royal employees. To maintain a long-term environment of support and responsiveness, the credit union conducted an employee survey 90 days after the acquisition. The survey measured not just Royal’s performance as the acquiring institution but also the quality of employee experiences throughout various departments.

Of the 97 individuals polled, 84.5% responded, followed in some cases by interviews. Many questions allowed the taker to check multiple selections or all answers that applied. Slightly less than half of survey responders were teller staff, followed by financial sales reps and branch managers/supervisors (21.25% of total respondees each).

So what did the survey turn up? In many case, the credit union found that acquired staff's values had synched rapidly with those at RCU. “The staff has always cared about their customers, but were not comfortable that they could help them or get answers for them,” says Risberg. “We just added support and service to the caring of the staff.”

Roughly 70% of the acquired employees were "extremely satisfied" or "satisfied" with their new role at RCU, and around 82% likened their acquisition experience to being welcomed into a family. Roughly 43% reported feeling they were in the right position/place in regards to a career at RCU, and 39% envisioned moving up from their current position. “Thanks for taking a chance on us and giving us a hope and a future,” wrote one frontline RCU employee to CEO Charlie Grossklaus.

The survey also measured how well RCU was communicating staff goals, including expectations for front-line staff to share information about new products and services. After a combination of electronic resources and in-person training and guidance, 83% of employees responded RCU’s marketing strategies were clear to them.

“We introduced our service and sales culture in logical order from the beginning of the merger announcement,” says Risberg.  “We continually talked about the importance of bringing back customers Anchor had lost in the past year or two, and what RCU products were the most likely to be ones that would fill their needs.” This clear communication of expectations, complemented by effective channels for employee feedback, is already yielding dynamic results at RCU.

“Net checking numbers are going in the right direction” advised Regional Director of Branch Operations Paula Kolbeck, reaching nearly 75% penetration at acquired branches as of November. Royal also greatly exceeded its year-end goal for overall product penetration with an outstanding 4.09 services utilized per member household.

Acquired employees were crucial to Royal’s success in the post acquisition, but they were not the only piece of the puzzle. Check out the online edition of CUSP 3Q for more on how Royal positioned itself for continuing success in its new environment.