Job Outlook at Credit Unions Brightens for 2013
Judging from comments by search firms and credit unions, 2013 may be a pretty promising year for jobseekers looking to land positions with credit unions.
Of course, applications still surge in after each help wanted notice is posted, and certain skill sets are in demand while others are in decline. Some credit unions will ease off after brisk hiring in 2012. But overall, it appears there are definitely opportunities out there.
Brian Rhonemus, managing director at Angott Search Group in Rochester, Mich., noted ASG has 11 people who only handle jobs in the financial services field. In the last six months, those associates have been increasingly busy, including job searches in credit union senior positions.
He indicated demand has been especially strong in IT.
“We’ve seen a huge increase in IT numbers,” Rhonemus said. “This is also true on the community bank side. We’ve seen more IT search in the last six to eight months than in the past five years combined.”
“Three years ago, if a credit union called and said, ‘We want an IT manager,’ it would be an IT manager in the $100,000 range who was more of a technology doer. What we’re seeing now is a focus on strategy. The IT person has a seat at the table today. Even CEOs at smaller credit unions want to leverage technology so they can offer more products and services.”
Rhonemus also said many credit unions are hiring bankers with consumer lending experience at large institutions. People with titles such as senior vice president of lending and chief lending officer are getting a lot of attention from credit unions seeking people who will focus on wallet share and product penetration.
Third on the checklist of people in demand are candidates with retail banking experience, such as branch managers who are sales people rather than operations people. Credit unions are also beefing up internal audit and compliance staff as regulators look closely at financial institutions.
“Credit unions are fairly open about considering bank candidates,” Rhonemus indicated. “They don’t really talk about it much, but when we sit down with boards or a senior management team, one of our first questions is, ‘Would you consider a banker?’ The answer is almost always yes.”
If there’s a catch, he continues, it’s that credit union salary structures are 20% to 30% below market, with a big falloff below the senior vice president level. He urges credit unions to match compensation to their expectations.
Eric Weikart, senior director at Cornerstone Advisors in Scottsdale, Ariz., sees a couple forces at work influencing both hiring reductions and increases. Regulatory demands are driving additional staffing to meet vendor management, audit and compliance requirements.
“As I look at hiring in 2013, that’s one of the big areas where credit unions are looking to add staff,” he said. “A head of risk management will be in high demand.”
On the other hand, ATMs and on-line banking continue to reduce the demand for tellers. Credit unions want branch staff to have universal, sales-oriented skills.
Weikart echoes Rhonemus’ call to develop leadership internally and hire from within. He also agrees there are capable, experienced employees at big banks looking for other options.
Lynn Stephens, senior vice president/human resources at Mountain America Credit Union in West Jordan, Utah, indicated that last year hiring was unusually brisk as the credit union opened 11 new branches. With unemployment in the area at about 5%, significantly below the national level, the ability to hire people is a bit more challenging than in some other regions. One plus has been the $3 billion credit union’s national ranking as a good place to work.
Mountain America will be doing some hiring in 2013 but probably not at last year’s pace. But, if there are additional opportunities to open new branches, that could change. In addition, low unemployment means consumer attitudes in Utah have been positive, an upbeat note reflected in growth and member retention.
“We always want to get the best-qualified candidates we can,” Stephens said. “We had something like 22,000 to 24,000 applicants last year for the 700 or so positions we hired. Half of those were filled internally, so we actually hired about 350 people from the outside.”
Significant hiring also took place in 2012 at PrimeWay Federal Credit Union in Houston. Greg Hill, senior vice president/human resources at the $400 million credit union, explained that in addition to replacement hires the credit union also filled several key positions. Some of that hiring took place in indirect lending.
“I would say we staffed up more than normal,” Hill said. “There was not a lot of growth of mortgage staff because that is mostly outsourced. I think this year we are really going to be selective because we feel adequately staffed. I don’t see any additional positions, but I do see replacement positions. We, and other people I’ve spoken to in the industry, are still in a wait and see mode for the most part, watching how things shake out in terms of growth and the economy.”
Hill noted the credit union’s growth and staffing needs definitely reflect the local economy. Houston has seen unemployment at about 6.4%, notably below the national average. Even so, “We do get deluged with applicants when we post positions,” Hill said. “Unfortunately, it’s volume not quality. We still struggle at times to make sure we hire the right person for the job. We’ve really taken measures to do a lot of pre-screening and testing. We do behavioral-based interviewing. We’ve definitely put more focus on quality in the last year or two than we did previously. A lot of our positions we do fill internally.”
Pentagon Federal Credit Union has also been growing, said Dave Jones, vice president /training and recruitment. He indicated the $13 billion credit union, headquartered in Alexandria, Va., has weathered the economic downturn very well. The northern Virginia area has been sheltered to some extent, and the worldwide membership base has also helped.
“Our business model calls for creating on-line banking opportunities for our members to keep overhead down and price as aggressively as we can while still remaining sound and stable,” he explained. “Compared to our peers, we don’t have a lot of brick and mortar branches.
“We have been hiring in our IT division and our mortgage division. Even through the economic downturn our mortgage division grew. I still see us expanding in that area, although what’s going to be a challenge for us will be the impact when we enter a rising rate environment.”
Jones is already seeing the effect of the improving economy as hiring picks up and jobseekers enjoy more options. There are already certain positions, such as key mortgage slots, that don’t draw a lot of candidates.
Maureen Wolfe, senior vice president at the $4 billion ESC Federal Credit Union in Rochester, N.Y, expects hiring in 2013 to remain about the same as in 2012. There was very low turnover last year, she noted, and she expects that pattern will continue this year. There will be a little more hiring of business banking staff. Although Rochester has enjoyed a stable economy, Wolfe still sees about 100 applicants for every opening.
“Part of that is because we have a strong reputation in the community,” Wolfe indicated. “Sorting through the applicants can be challenging. We seek to hire people from all walks of life and have a lot of diversity. We do extensive community outreach.”