How does the CEO of a credit union in Portland, Ore., manage a credit union in Seattle some 175 miles away? Simple, by using technology and having the right people doing the right things at the right time.
Any CEO of a small credit union can tell you it’s been tough getting through the past decade or so, especially if you’re not lucky enough to have a strong SEG or small community charter. This is what United Advantage and Puget Sound credit unions found themselves facing: too many employees (64 total) too many offices (seven) and paying far too much for technology that neither staff nor members knew what to do with.
Solution: combine the obvious areas like compliance, collections, HR and the like. It started out small then blossomed into more than anyone had thought. With a core system made for collaboration the credit unions added a few more players: a CEO out of southern California and a CEO from Spokane, Washington have joined the ranks; in short they acted large behind the scenes while remaining small for the members.
The two credit unions are currently at a total of 12 staff and have enticed members to use the technology, bringing the in-office traffic down by more than 45%. Having only a total of three offices now has brought those expenses down dramatically.
But the main feature was the communication system; replacing outdated and expensive PDX phone systems with new technology that includes instant messaging, web conferencing, shared screens, white boards, share point and other instant communications with no more long-distance costs since it all goes over the Internet.
The $22 million Puget Sound FCU has saved more than $450,000 annually by moving staff and members to technology and was just granted a membership expansion by NCUA. The $38 million United Advantage FCU has saved more than $600,000 per annum by collaboration and technology without sacrificing member services.
In fact, they do more for members now than they were ever able to with just staff and offices alone. Through collaboration they remain separate yet have reduced the areas of redundancy through technology to do more with less.
The platform the small credit union is standing upon is getting hotter and more uncomfortable. By working together we are stronger and able to weather the storms with less disruption. Unfortunately, collaboration is a “feel good’ phrase that credit unions use often but seldom put into practice. United we stand, divided we fail.