Center Stage

Branch staff take center stage amid transformations

New technology and design changes force credit unions to update staffing models.

August 28, 2018

For many financial institutions, the teller line is no longer a line and a teller is no longer a teller.

Technology, consumer preferences, and design changes have altered the way members obtain services at their credit union branch. And front-line employees have had to up their service game to keep pace, according to a recent CUNA Councils webinar.

“Branch staff have to take center stage and be the member’s advisor,” says Jamie Eads, director of retail staffing at Bancography, a firm that offers branch planning, network optimization, and retail staffing services.

Most institutions are shifting to the universal associate methodology, where front-line employees have a breadth of expertise on the vast majority of their credit union’s products and services.

‘The way our members like to be served is different today.’

This methodology often prevents members from being passed from employee to employee, and improves service quality and wait times.

Hire differently
Moving to universal front-line staff, paired with upgrades in branch technology and design, was a major win for $3 billion asset Coastal Federal Credit Union in Raleigh, N.C.

“The response from members is extremely positive,” says Jim Pack, Coastal Federal’s senior vice president and chief member service officer.

The change, he says, however, forces your credit union to hire differently.

Pack looks for three kinds of talent when hiring for the front-line at Coastal:

  1. Striving.
  2. Thinking.
  3. Relating.

To find these talents, first you need to identify the critical job requirements, he says.

Then, develop interview questions that compel the candidate to speak about job-related knowledge, skills, abilities, and accomplishments.

From there, Pack suggests, “don’t compare job candidates to each other, compare them to your best performers in similar roles.”

For $1.3 billion asset LGE Community Credit Union in Marietta, Ga., the move has been good for the credit union, members, and staff. The credit union has increased referrals, reduced staff costs, and enhanced member engagement.

“Our member satisfaction scores are phenomenal,” says Thomas Garrett, LGE Community’s director of branch operations.

Members enjoy the open concept design changes that many credit unions using the universal employee methodology often deploy.

This may mean eliminating the teller line and other barriers that separate members and employees in favor of inviting stations known as teller pods, where employees and members can work together side-by-side.

“The way our members like to be served is different today. We want to trend with them,” Garrett says.

Maintaining the workforce
Garrett also says the new model is great for front-line staff who want to advance their careers. These employees build a wide variety of skills and knowledge that allow for greater upward movement.

‘We need to pay them a little bit more, but we can do with less of them.’

“The more you know, the more you grow,” Garrett says.

Universal employees become very valuable to their credit union.

Because universal employees have more skills than the traditional teller, you might have to increase compensation, says Eads. But, she notes, these valuable employees allow credit unions to reduce staff at branches.

“We need to pay them a little bit more, but we can do with less of them,” Eads says.

The other human resources issue credit unions might face with the new model, she adds, is retention of these skilled staff members.

“We are seeing some stealing going on from one institution to another,” Eads says. “These employees are going to be in high demand as more adopt the model.”