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CU Branch Traffic Down, Need for Stellar Service Up
Wednesday, August 17, 2016 6:35 AM

Joe LaTorre, Director of Innovation, Employment Technologies Corporation

If you’re old enough, you probably remember going to credit union or bank as a regular occurrence. Many of us went at least once a week. Depositing our paychecks, getting cash for the weekend, or simply asking questions about the status of our accounts were all common reasons for a weekly visit. Tellers were easily some of the most visible and recognized members of the community. My mom worked as an officer in our community bank, and we couldn’t go anywhere without her being recognized. It felt like we were hanging out with a celebrity every time we went out to dinner.

All that is changing. And those changes have a significant impact on hiring. The good news is that many credit unions are ahead of the curve, when compared with traditional banks and financial centers, in transitioning their operations to best serve the evolving needs of their members.

Keeping Pace with Technology
Technology has changed our lives to the core, and its impact on credit unions is profound. Tech savvy members now expect to conduct most of their routine transactions online without ever setting foot inside a traditional branch. Credit unions are being forced to keep pace with new technologies and the establishment of digital branches is a top priority. A study commissioned and conducted by International Data Corp predicts that in 2017 financial centers worldwide will invest approximately $16 billion in branch transformation and related technologies.

Creating a Seamless Member Experience
These changes don’t mean that members no longer want or need to walk into a branch and talk to someone. While online services continue to grow, visiting a branch remains right on its heels. So, it’s not that members are no longer visiting branches; they're visiting them for different reasons. After all, questions about our money or how to manage our wealth get our attention very quickly. Most of us still strongly prefer to talk to a living, breathing trusted advisor.

With branch traffic down, credit unions recognize how critical it is to treat each and every member touchpoint as a valued opportunity to learn about their financial needs and become that trusted advisor. JLL Research agrees that financial centers must use a multi-channel approach to reach out to members at every stage of their financial journey. And with CU membership projected to grow over the next two years, as reported in CUNA’s recent Credit Union Trends Report, it’s more critical than ever to ensure each member interaction is an outstanding, seamless, and confidence-building experience.

Transitioning Employees to New Job Demands
The traditional teller role is morphing into a universal banker role that requires employees to go far beyond processing basic transactions. To succeed in this new role, every member touchpoint needs to transition to financial discovery—to identify additional products and services that will benefit each member's financial goals. This requires highly-skilled employees that are comfortable not only performing transactions but also constantly seeking opportunities to position new products and services. Today’s universal bankers must be tech savvy so they can help members resolve digital service issues, and they must be knowledgeable of the CU's complete financial service and product offering.

Bridging Performance Gaps
While many credit unions are eager to embrace change, their existing employees may be uncomfortable or unwilling to transition into new roles. For instance, technical issues that arise from online services present new and difficult problems for less tech savvy employees. Also, employees that were hired as traditional tellers may find it difficult to transition to a sales role. Navigating these transitions can be tricky and CUs can’t expect the change to occur over night. It’s a difficult balancing act between keeping long-tenured employees with years of experience and relationship building and the realities of transitioning to new job demands.

Preparing the Next Generation of Leaders
Staffing challenges are magnified by the fact that currently 60 to 65 percent of financial services employees are older than 40, according to Accenture research findings. Adding to the challenge is the fact that, by 2021, millennials will account for a majority of the employees in these key roles. Retaining the knowledge that could be walking out the door and identifying and preparing the next generation of leaders is essential for ongoing success. These challenges will require forward-thinking credit unions to reevaluate the tools and processes used to select, retain, and develop the next generation of credit union employees.