Banking on Ex-Bankers?

Before hiring ex-bankers, make sure they're a good fit for your CU.

May 3, 2011

For some ex-bankers, moving to a credit union is simply the right opportunity at the right time. For others, it’s a chance to live a philosophy.

Understanding the motives and methods of ex-bankers can be valuable for credit unions that are seeking to recruit promising lending officers and executives, according to “Ex-Bankers Working for Credit Unions: Challenges and Opportunities,” a CUNA Lending Council white paper.

Whether these lending officers apply for credit union jobs or are recruited by a professional “head hunter,” their motives for considering a credit union position will vary.

Credit unions should avoid ex-bankers who lack the ability to “convert” to a member service philosophy.

For ex-bankers, the key to success in the credit union movement seems to be in understanding the credit union philosophy and reconciling it to their own approach to lending policies and procedures.

Ex-bankers join credit unions for multiple reasons, such as:

  • Satisfying a desire to join an organization that emphasizes financial literacy;
  • Fleeing a bank or finance company that no longer feels welcoming;
  • Accepting a position with a higher level of responsibility or better prospects for promotion;
  • Gaining authority or decision-making independence;
  • Seeking personal fulfillment; or
  • Pursuing a better quality of life.

Some critics call hiring ex-bankers an unnecessary risk, believing they’ll be likely to hold onto a for-profit mentality. But many people who accept a credit union position understand they’re signing up for a different type of organization and make their decisions on that basis.

How can you tell if an ex-banker will be a good fit for your credit union? Use the interview process to address these questions:

  • Does the candidate have a service philosophy?
  • What’s the candidate’s motivation?
  • Does the candidate like “mom and pop shop” loans?
  • Does the candidate “play well with others?”
  • Has the candidate made a positive impression in the community?

While there are many similarities between banks and credit unions, there are also significant differences. Be prepared to help ex-bankers adapt their knowledge base to the credit union environment in several areas:

  • Technology: Credit unions may use different software and approaches than banks;
  • Regulations: Specific requirements can differ significantly and deal with different regulations, agencies, and examiners;
  • Philosophy and culture.
  • The credit union network: collaboration among credit unions may be a different concept from the highly competitive environment found in banking.

Ex-bankers offer these suggestions to help leaders who join the credit union movement:

  • Participate in league events;
  • Volunteer on credit union projects;
  • Ask for tools to increase effectiveness and productivity;
  • Maintain your professional relationships;
  • Leverage your contacts;
  • Recognize your potential;
  • Learn the credit union language;
  • Pay attention to the credit union philosophy;
  • Consider attending CUNA Management School;
  • Share your sales expertise;
  • Get acquainted with branch managers; and
  • Be prepared to innovate.

“Ex-Bankers Working for Credit Unions: Challenges and Opportunities,” is available free to CUNA Lending Council members; $50 for nonmembers.