Invest In The Best With Your Workforce

To gain more efficient operations from branch employees, you’ve got to give.


Inadequate training and lack of employee resources won’t just harm your workers ─ It can corrupt your retention, service quality and brand image with membership. As efficiency demands increase, many credit unions are finding they must increasingly task their front line to do more with less in an effort to preserve membership value. But is it really the best approach?

You pay for the best vendor solutions, the best security features, the best branch and ATM technology, but are you devoting an equal share of your time and resources to creating the best employees possible?

To help employees do more, in more efficient ways, you need to devote more resources to them. A more educated workforce can handle more tasks and greater workloads per individual than their peers, decreasing your staffing obligations. And employees with long term development options and goals are more likely to see their time invested as a career, rather than just a job.

University Federal Credit Union ($1.4B, Austin, TX) is in the middle of a multi-year expansion plan that will carry it beyond its Austin roots, with three new branch locations and one repurposed location slated to open in 2012. But to grow in a cost effective way that benefits members, efficiency is a significant factor.  

One prong of this strategy is a move to a new style of branch called an Interactive Financial Center. Equipped with self-service, intelligent ATMs, the new IFCs are staffed by just three to four personal financial representatives.

 “Tellers have the highest amount of turnover in the credit union,” says Sheila Wojcik, vice president of membership. “It’s usually entry level, part-time, and for many, is not seen as a career path.”

It is equally difficult for credit unions to retain highly trained, licensed individuals to provide non-retail services like annuities and investments in new branches with no deposit base. No credit union wants to ask members to return another time because representatives aren’t available to help them with an advanced service.

As University’s branch network continued to expand, so did the demands on the coop’s financial advisors, leading to the hiring of additional individuals and support staff. But this was only a temporary stopgap for the expected growth to come.

To permanently increase branch employee satisfaction and avoid a here-today-gone-tomorrow workforce, the credit union knew it would have to invest more heavily in the front line. As technology took some of the daily transaction burden off employee’s plates, University focused on training staff to work in smaller groups, but with expanded capacities beyond a traditional teller line.  

Building on in-house talent, the credit union created its own internal licensing program for branch employees. Together with the retail operation department, they selected the top 10% of performers from their 65 PFRs to train for their insurance sales and Series 6 securities licenses.

“We were looking for top performers,” says Aaron Persons, senior manager of insurance/investments, “but it also had to be something the employees themselves were passionate about.”

In a six week time frame, PFRs utilized self-study and in-class sessions to get the training they needed, and the first class had an 80% pass rate, says Persons. While they are still limited in the amount of business they can do without a Series 7 rep’s authorization, a licensed PFR’s is available at each of these branch locations at the member’s convenience.

Each IFC will also staff three to four non-licensed representatives, but even these individuals will be able cross trained beyond retail services, providing referrals for real estate and business services.