Council Lauds Training Innovators

Themed training and a unique merger garner top 2012 training awards.

January 10, 2013

Each year, the CUNA Operations, Sales & Services Council recognizes select credit unions for their innovative training solutions to optimize credit union performance.

In October, Red Canoe Credit Union, Longview, Wash., and Directions Credit Union, Sylvania, Ohio, received Excellence in Operations, Sales & Service Awards for their efforts.

Themed training

Red Canoe’s training department, headed by Rod Snyder, Michelle Trekas, and Ken Kelly, was recognized with a Sales & Service Management Award for its extensive themed training programs, which incorporate the CUNA Creating Member Loyalty (CML) program.

“We feel of our brand is enhanced by the high level of employee engagement and job satisfaction,” says Snyder, Red Canoe’s assistant vice president/sales and branch performance. “Throughout the years, we have developed targeted campaigns that focus on sales skills, quality service, and interdepartmental team building.”

Red Canoe’s award-winning training programs include:

  • Ahead of the Curve, an individual quality service recognition program designed that focuses on the service quality of sales staff. The program name refers to Red Canoe’s “Customer Loyalty Curve.”
  • Around the World in 80 Calls, an effort to increase staff awareness and confidence in the success of outbound sales and service calls. Sales teams were asked to make 50 calls each week while they “visited” different world locations.
  • Extreme Makeover—Financial Group Edition, a high-energy program making use of video to increase Red Canoe Financial Group referrals to 60 in a given month (after a prolonged average of 10). This was accomplished through educating staff, focusing on success, and rewarding targeted staff efforts.
  • QuestionSANDanswers, a summer promotion designed to reinforce CML basics by revisiting the program’s “questioning” strategy and sharing questions among staff.

“Red Canoe has been successfully guided by CML for more than seven years,” Snyder says. “Training alone, however, is not enough to perpetuate a sales culture. The program provides a framework for us to follow, but it requires commitment from the credit union staff to ensure success.”

As a result of these programs and others sales efforts, Red Canoe experienced 43.6% loan growth from 2011 to 2012. It also more than doubled its outbound calls during the first half of 2012.

Red Canoe’s training team took home this award in 2009 and 2012. “They make the campaigns memorable and fun, which causes their teams to actively participate,” says Greg Inman, senior vice president of retail operations for Neighbors Federal Credit Union, Baton Rouge, La., and a member of the CUNA Operations, Sales & Service Council’s executive committee.

Megamerger of equals

In the face of a recession, the retirement of a CEO with no successor, and business growth issues, Toledo Area Credit Union, Empire Affiliates Credit Union, and Erie Shores Credit Union combined their individual strengths to become one of the state’s largest credit unions: Directions Credit Union, based in Sylvania, Ohio.

Julie Linch, Directions’ senior vice president, retail delivery, has been involved in the merger process from the start when her credit union, Toledo Area Community Credit Union and Empire Affiliates Credit Union came up with the plan.

“Each merger came about for a different reason,” Linch says. “We had financial strength but they had a larger geographic footprint. We had a strong mortgage program and they were hoping to start one, and we were large in one part of the state and they dominated in another part. It seemed where one was lacking, the other was strong. The fit seemed a plus for members of both credit unions.”

Directions struggled through issues concerning duplicate member account numbers, member attrition, and differing payroll practices. Even today it’s adjusting its staff allocations to ensure everyone fits into the new structure optimally.

“Challenging would be an understatement when it comes to large mergers, but making decisions with the members in mind helped us to focus,” Linch explains. “The cost savings we are anticipating from the mergers won’t happen for several years as we work out these details.”

The combined operation has about $575 million in assets. The credit union now is moving forward with 18 member-access offices and two nonmember operation centers serving over 67,000 members.

Directions won an award in the “Miscellaneous” category for the successful merger.

Visit the CUNA Operation, Sales & Service Council’s website to learn more about the Excellence in Operations, Sales & Service Awards.

JULIE LANG is the manager of Sponsor & Award Programs for the CUNA Councils.