'The hardest part is for members to come in and talk to us about their situations so we can develop a plan.'
HERE’S HOW TANYA ROMERO’S 13-YEAR CAREER at Guadalupe Credit Union in Santa Fe, N.M., has unfolded: part-time teller, teller supervisor, assistant branch manager, branch manager, training director, branch operations manager, and chief operating officer.
Like so many who have joined the credit union industry, she was looking for a change.
“I’d been working at a bank job that I didn’t like and heard about an opening at a credit union,” Romero recalls. “I knew nothing about this industry.”
At the bank, she was dissatisfied with how things were done, including the constant push to meet sales quotas or make referrals.
“I didn’t know much about the products I was trying to sell, and when I did learn, I knew that some of them weren’t what the customers needed,” she says. “I came to Guadalupe eager to learn, and found that although I asked a lot of questions, people here were happy to answer them.
"I wanted to help people who came after me avoid having to learn on the fly, so I began writing down notes, which I used to help peers and new people.”
Romero began training people as they came aboard, and Guadalupe gave her the opportunities and empowerment to do so. “I didn’t know I was developing something more important.”
Her notes became an official document when a new vice president of member services needed to create a procedure manual. Tanya volunteered the notes, and the vice president realized they’d be a perfect basis for the manual.
As a single mom who understands what it’s like to struggle with money issues, the outreach Romero has helped create is aimed at people in similar situations.
“Sixty percent of our members are low-income,” she says. “However, our outreach efforts are not limited to just members; they’re also aimed at schools, parents, friends, family, and the community as a whole."
“The first step for anybody is to become aware of what their finances are,” Romero continues. “The hardest step is for them to come in and talk to us about their situations so we can develop a plan. Once they start talking and see there’s something they can do, the weight comes off of them.”
Guadalupe offers “Borrow and Save,” a loan and savings program aimed at people who’ve been depending on payday lenders. Part of the loan payment goes into a savings account, which can’t be touched until the loan is paid off, Romero explains.
“Loan payments are made via an automatic deduction from the borrower’s paycheck,” she says. “Once the loan is paid off , the borrower has $250 in savings.”