Michael Baker
Michael Baker

Great Starter, Great Finisher

'CU people care about members, not just numbers.'

October 6, 2015

MICHAEL BAKER joined $927 million asset SAFE Federal Credit Union in Sumter, S.C., 15 years ago as a management trainee following stints in auto parts sales and residential construction.

As he worked his way up to become a branch manager, SAFE Federal realized it had someone on its roster with a gift for management over a wide range of tasks. “They saw I had the ability to handle projects from start to finish,” Baker says, “so they named me to head security/facilities.”

After a stint as manager of SAFE Federal’s largest branch, Michael was named vice president of branch administration, a post he held for eight years. Just recently the credit union named him to a newly created position, vice president of operations.

Among his accomplishments, Baker:

▶ Supervised the installation of 50 new Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant ATMs after the manufacturer discontinued SAFE Federal’s old machines;

▶ Implemented the debut of the credit union’s Online Xpress Account Opening, a 10-month project that involved training, testing, and due diligence;

▶ Led the building or remodeling of three branches; and

▶ Managed sales and service at nine branches as one of two branch administration vice presidents.

“Now I can concentrate on projects 100% of the time,” he says, something necessary in his often one-man role. “Not a lot of extra staff here can jump in and help on some of these projects.”

Baker’s focus on staffing has led him to concerns about experienced credit union employees who are nearing retirement. “Many of the people I’ve known for years will be retiring soon.”

That development has added another work initiative to his list: training the young employees SAFE Federal is hiring.

Baker strives to achieve a healthy work-family balance. He has a wife, two children, and a penchant for restoring Chevrolet models from the 1960s.

In a way, he says he’s paying homage to a simpler time when life was not as frantic or “smart device” crazy as it is today.

What keeps him in the industry? “People care about members, not just numbers,” he says. “Credit unions go out of their way for members, whether it’s helping them change that tires in the parking lot or finding a way to make them loans.”

Although he relishes his new position, there’s one aspect he’s having to get used to: “I miss the frequent face-to-face contact with members.”