Credit unions are looking at staffing differently these days, for many reasons. Two of the biggest are the challenging economy and changing technology.
Tallahassee-Leon Federal Credit Union, Tallahassee, Fla., is opening a new branch about 45 minutes from its main office, which poses staffing challenges, saysLisa Brown, president/CEO.
When you have distant branches, it’s difficult to rotate staff when someone’s sick or on vacation, she explains. “You’d normally pull from another branch, but in this case it’s not practical. And you typically need all back-office staff in one branch for effective communication, but we wanted to be a little more creative.”
The $40 million asset credit union is moving its accounting department from its main office to the new branch. “It will help with dual control and redundancy, and will give us more space in our main branch,” she says.
“We’re fairly progressive with technology, so I think we can overcome any communication challenges,” she adds. Staff will use video calls and tablet devices for meetings.
Brown uses transaction volumes to plan staffing levels—within budget guidelines—and to forecast expected volumes for the new branch. “We’ll have two accounting employees and three branch staffers,” she says. “We also use kiosks at all branches in place of tellers. You can check account history and make withdrawals; it really helps traffic flow.”
When Brown joined Tallahassee-Leon Federal, she needed to ramp up collections. That need has since abated, and she’s reallocating collections staff to the credit union’s branches. “Luckily, we didn’t have to downsize,” she notes. “And, thankfully, the economy isn’t playing as much of a role in staffing as it did two years ago.”
Technology always has an impact on staffing, she adds. “You can centralize or decentralize—with a few employees who know all the systems or all employees who know a little. We’re choosing a more decentralized approach.
“When searching for new staff, we require a much higher level of technical knowledge than in the past,” she continues. “Even tellers are required to troubleshoot common software issues.”
Compliance is one exception to the decentralized approach. The current regulatory climate led the credit union to hire a full-time compliance specialist. “We needed a very specific knowledge base,” says Brown. “It’s something credit unions, especially those our size, never needed in the past.”
The credit union currently outsources after-hours loan application review, some network security, and core processing.
Future staffing strategies will depend on growth, Brown reflects. “We’re at a tipping point. When we hit the $100 million asset mark, a lot of dynamics will change. We’re limited because of dual control requirements and the need for such attention on compliance, but that will change as we grow.”
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