Has your credit union ever considered hiring a ninja? How about a rock star? And to whom does the Jedi report?
These creative job titles appear mostly in the tech industry, where companies will use any competitive edge they can to attract top talent. Microsoft calls its IT people IT pro evangelists. Google has an intergalactic federation king almighty and commander of the universe. It's unclear what exactly a king almighty does, but it does seem like a heck of a responsibility.
Still, job titles are changing, even at credit unions. And as old titles are abandoned, new ones take their place to keep up with an evolving financial services industry. In the next five years alone, between 6,000 and 10,000 executives will retire. That means new faces, new ideas, and probably a lot of new titles.
Credit unions and companies create these new monikers for various reasons — to have a little fun, to stand out to potential hires, to meet a new challenge, or to fill a position that didn't exist before. Take, for example, the role of social media manager. Ten years ago a credit union's board members would likely have questioned the need for this type of employee and 10 years from now, they may be of the same persuasion yet again.
A great many of the new job titles that have cropped up in this industry within the last few years will be vetted by the test of time and others will prove to be merely a passing fad. Yet credit unions that wish to survive and thrive in an unknown future must continually envision the needs of tomorrow and embrace the jobs and titles that will allow them to address such concerns head on.
The three credit unions profiled here are doing exactly that by creating new positions to meet new needs. One cooperative created a retail Internet sales manager in 2013 after discovering inefficiencies in its mortgage department. Another added a vice president of unbanking in 2010 to champion its new brand and represent the credit union on social media and in the community. Yet a third created a manager of service excellence to establish and maintain standards for the credit union.
Combining Jobs To Improve Efficiency
When Jim Laffoon became president of Security Service Federal Credit Union ($7.9B, San Antonio, TX) in March 2012, he'd already been with the credit union more than 20 years. But it wasn't more of the same with Laffoon. As one of his first orders of business, the new president — who would eventually also be promoted to CEO in 2014 — took a tour of the American Southwest to get acquainted with the more than 1,600 people working at Security Service. The reason for the trip was twofold: to meet the employees and urge them to help him eliminate inefficiencies.
Laffoon told his employees he didn't want them to feel foolish doing their job and he challenged all of his senior executives to talk to their staff at both the branch and department levels to identify any practices that made no sense.
"You would be amazed how many people came forward when they felt empowered to do that," says John Worthington, chief communications officer at Security Service. "There's a lot we found out about, processes and things we've been doing for years, but nobody had ever challenged them."
As one result of these discussions, the credit union's mortgage services department decided to introduce a new position called the retail Internet sales manager.
This role effectively sought to combine the responsibility for online and in-person mortgage originations, which were previously handled by two different people. Now, one individual supervises both the mortgage loan officers and mortgage loan advisors, creating more complete oversight for the entire retail side of the mortgage department.
"Things are changing," Worthington says. "If you're doing things the same way you did 10 years ago, then you're probably falling behind the marketplace. You've got to be open to innovation. If there's a way we think we can do it better, we'll create a position to make it work."
Differentiating From Banks With A Communications Intern
How old is the youngest vice president at your institution? Thirty-five? Twenty-eight? At Connex Credit Union ($415.5M, New Haven, CT), the youngest vice president isn't even out of college.
That's because ever since 2010, this credit union has offered a part-time internship to a college junior or senior that allows them to serve as the institution's vice president of unbanking during the school year.
The credit union frequently refers to itself as the "unbanked" option because one of its main marketing objectives is to distinguish itself from its for-profit competitors. And having a dedicated standard-bearer of this key difference has not only allowed the credit union to better communicate with its members, but also helped ramp up external outreach via social media and direct engagement with the community.
"The snazzy title really draws attention to it," says Chris Whalen, marketing and eServices specialist at Connex and a former vice president of unbanking from 2011 to 2012. "How many interns can carry the title of vice president?"
The snazzy title really draws attention to it. How many interns can carry the title of vice president?
Whalen was hired full-time after his internship, and his role now includes overseeing the vice president of unbanking as well as contributing to social media, managing email marketing, and serving as a liaison for public relations and media.
Currently, a vice president of unbanking's main responsibilities will include posting on social media and the credit union's blog, as well as creating engaging content for Connex's YouTube channel.
Community engagement is also a big component of this role. For example, the current vice president of unbanking has worked with a local foster home to offer a finance workshop for those who will soon turn 18 and will need to leave the foster care system to strike out on their own. Despite its catchy title, the role is not all flash.
"Engagement on our social media and the readability of our blogs are both higher when we have a vice president of unbanking," Whalen says. In fact, during the school year, when the internship is in effect, Connex blog views increase by an average of 30%.
Ensuring High Standards For Service
During Wright-Patt Credit Union's ($2.8B, Beavercreek, OH) 2012 strategic planning session, the leadership had a disturbing realization: No one person oversaw all of Wright-Patt's service efforts. As a result, "there wasn't a lot of consistency," says Shanda McKinney, Wright-Patt's vice president of human resources.
Although each department made service a priority, the credit union needed someone whose primary responsibility was to establish uniform standards. Its answer was to create the manager of service excellence — a new human resources position that ensures Wright-Patt delivers consistent, outstanding support.
The human resources team itself worked with the marketing department and the chief operating officer to identify the position's key responsibilities and write a job description.
"We considered placing the role in other areas of business, perhaps marketing, but we recognized that human resources is the one area that touches every department," McKinney says.
Placing the position in human resources also helped build a stronger connection with the credit union's training department, as both back office and front-line staff must go through a training program that teaches best practices for delivering excellent service.
Wright-Patt is also now in the process of creating a member services program, which will provide ongoing guidelines to help employees better identify and meet these individuals' changing needs.
To build the backbone of this program, the manager of service excellence has been working out of both the credit union's branches and back offices, observing and evaluating real interactions with members and identifying potential roadblocks.
Creating a new position at Wright-Patt is no small task, so it was important to find the right person for the job. Ultimately, the credit union chose Sheila Peagler, an 18-year member of Wright-Patt.
"We're cautious about adding new positions because we never want to find ourselves in a situation where we have to lay someone off because we added too much staff," McKinney says. "I don't know that every situation requires an added position, but we are always looking for ways to improve."