Deb Vollmer joined Langley Federal Credit Union ($2.1B, Newport News, VA) as a branch manager in 2003. She’s moved up the chain of command and is currently the senior vice president of branch services, one of only a handful of direct reports to CEO Tom Ryan.
Her responsibilities in facilities, deposits, and marketing stem from a redesign of the leadership structure that coincided with the arrival of Ryan in 2012. And the changes at the top have trickled down into the branches, too, where the credit union has implemented a sales culture and altered its hiring practices.
In this Q&A, Vollmer discusses the formation of Langley’s leadership team, the sales culture in its branches, and why the credit union prefers to hire from Chick-fil-A.
What was the leadership and management team structure when Tom Ryan arrived? How has he reorganized it?
Deb Vollmer, VP of Branch Services, Langley FCU
Deb Vollmer: I was the vice president of operations, responsible for the branches but also all the back-office operations like support services and IRAs. I reported to a senior vice president who reported to the executive vice president who reported to the CEO.
Tom leveled this out and redistributed a lot of the responsibilities. He merged the executive vice president level into the senior vice president level, making five senior vice presidents. He made me a senior vice president and gave me the branches and contact center. The senior vice president I reported to previously lost branches as a responsibility but gained other areas.
Tom has redistributed responsibilities two or three times since. For example, when our former vice president of lending retired, Tom made that a senior vice president position and looked for a stronger candidate. That’s when we hired Curtis [Baker, chief lending officer].
When the assistant vice president of branch services retired, she had approximately 30 direct reports. We decided to set up a regional manager structure instead of replacing the assistant vice president. We now have three regional managers, each one with a specialty. One of them specializes in sales, one in business development and services, and one in operations. But they’re also responsible for branches.
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Tom continues to redistribute the responsibilities as opportunities arise, which is why we have a strange mix of responsibilities.
In terms of Langley’s culture, what existed before and how are the two different?
DV: Before, we were not a sales-driven organization. We were more concerned with the number of people doing a teller transaction than the number of people expanding their member relationship.
CU QUICK FACTS
Data as of 12.31.15
HQ: Newport News, VA
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 10.70%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 19.63%
Now, we are more focused on the sales those branches generate and everybody in the branch is engaged in forming and expanding those relationships. Even tellers look for opportunities to expand member relationships instead of solely running transactions.
That’s been a big change for the branches, and some branch employees were just not comfortable in a sales organization. If they decided they did not want to be a part of a sales organization, then they left voluntarily.
How have the branch roles changed in this new culture?
DV: Three years ago we had head tellers, branch managers, and a business development department. We eliminated the business development department, got rid of a lot of the head teller positions, and created assistant branch manager positions.
The assistant branch manager, who might have been a head teller previously, is now responsible for the day-to-day operations.
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But the role of the branch manager is the biggest change. It has gone from worrying about operational issues to building the business in the branch. The branch manager goes to business development functions, meets people in the community, and visits SEGs. When the branch manager is in the branch, they are sitting with the employees, coaching them, and holding sales meetings. Overall, we’re less focused on transactions, more focused on building the business.
How have your hiring preferences changed to accommodate the sales culture?
DV: We are hiring for personality. We can teach a teller how to count money, we cannot teach personality. We are hiring people who have a strong retail background who are easy to engage with in conversation.
We can teach a teller how to count money, we cannot teach personality.
For example, when we find a good sales person or someone who has a great personality at different retail stores, we hand them our business card. We explain that we are Langley Federal Credit Union, we’re looking for people who are engaging, and we’re always hiring.
We love Chick-fil-A. It has great customer service training. We’ve hired several folks straight from there.
Did anything else change in regard to hiring?
DV: We transferred all hiring from a corporate level in the HR department down to the branch level.
Branch managers now hire all of their own staff and were told clearly to look for personality, to look for people who are engaging.
We have a series of five questions that helps weed out some applicants. It’s things like “True or false: I enjoy engaging in conversations with others.”
If you answer false, you are not going to succeed at Langley. If you don’t enjoy doing that, then this is not a good role for you.
— As told to Erik Payne