Fight or flight responses are typical in many credit unioncollections departments, but for collections operations supervisorKyrie Deger and his team at VyStar Credit Union in Jacksonville,Fla., that reaction has been subsiding one solution at a time.

|

“We're lucky,” CU Times' latest Trailblazer 40 Belowsaid. “In our organization, our group is celebrated. For us, it'sbeen about getting out of the mentality of collections as anecessary evil and instead being a solutions-oriented group. It'snot that we have to call members, we want to call them toprovide the best solution possible.”

|

Having that simple shift in perception has made all thedifference at the $5.5 billion credit union. Escalated callactivity has become a rare occurrence, members have been morewilling to call in asking for help, and process improvements withinthe department have been found useful across the organization, hesaid.

|

“Credit unions in general need to consider the idea of beingradical and at the forefront of leading change,” Deger said.

|

 

|

Although challenges exist around technology, growth and thelending environment as interest rates start to rise, Deger saidthere's opportunity for credit unions to stand out if they arewilling to take calculated risks with members.

|

“For example, if we recognize the number of people affected bythe significant collapse in the economy and the beacon scoredoesn't truly measure someone's ability to borrow and repay a loan,why not look at how they perform on each product?” Deger asked. “Itcould be their home was overleveraged, but they made their carpayments every month.”

|

When determining risk, credit unions should dig deeper into themember's motivation, and his or her behavior, to determine if theoriginal factors that led to his or her current result still existtoday, Deger explained. If they don't, then there may be anopportunity for the credit union to be more proactive andaggressive in its lending efforts while continuing to be fiscallyresponsible.

|

While working in a regulatory-heavy environment, as well asdealing with bankruptcies, GL reconciliation and modifications, itcan be easy to focus on what can't be done, which is why Deger'steam constantly pushes to find a way to improve processes. Outsideof Deger's office is a bulletin board where staffers pin theirideas, and an idea isn't removed until it's been resolved andimplemented. For Deger and the team, the bulletin board serves as amotivator for staff to keep pushing forward and as anaccountability reminder for senior-level personnel.

|

“There's one idea that's been up there for a year that wehaven't figured out yet, but we will,” he said. “We simply don'tquit. We keep asking, why? Why are we doing this? How can we refineprocesses so they're more streamlined and efficient for theindividual user and do more with the current resources available tous?”

|

Read more: Deger chooses new hires who possessshared values …

|

|

That constant review of what can be improved to deliver morevalue recently led to the credit union restructuring its inventorymanagement systems and streamlining mundane processes, Deger said.In the collections world, automation allows teams to take on moreresponsibility, plus explore how they can do more for thedepartment and organization as a whole, and Deger's team'ssubsequent efficiency improvement has served as an intrinsicmotivator and employee empowerment tool, he said.

|

“Once the team is engaged, there's no better force to have withyou,” Deger said. “At the onset of 2015, our department had sevenprojects fully implemented that resulted in a process improvementfor the organization, and all I did was facilitate it.”

|

He added that investing in talent development and listening tostaff is key to fostering an empowered, engaged team of highperformers. Deger said he hires people who have shared values, whoare personable, caring, self-motivated, curious and driven to domore – from hitting goals to beating deadlines.

|

“It's about how they've been living their entire lives, and thetechnical skills and knowledge can be taught,” he said. “I'velearned over the years that while it can be very hard to keep yourmouth shut in certain situations, you have to pay attention to whatthe team is sharing. If you are only listening for the big ideas,you will miss out on those details or the small things that have alarge impact on the day-to-day and will drive your department orthe organization as a whole forward.”

|

He credited the dedication of the credit union's CEO andperformance and development group for creating and sustaining aculture that invests in helping everyone on the team to realizetheir potential. Programs are geared toward developing not justeffective managers, but also leaders who shape perception withinthe credit union.

|

To ensure team members are in the right position and constantlychallenged, everything from metrics to goals to team dynamics arereviewed and ranked at VyStar roughly twice a year. If it will helpa team member further his or her development to be moved to anotherarea, then the change is implemented immediately. Deger said thisprocess fosters a healthy competition and keeps the workplaceinteresting and fresh for everyone. He added that mentoring othershas been most rewarding for him, and perhaps guiding others is inhis blood, given that his grandparents were teachers. And it's paidoff: Last year, nine of his direct reports attained promotions tonew roles within the credit union.

|

“My advice to any young leader is to 'do,'” he said. “It's notabout titles. People always talk a lot about what they are thinkingor are going to do. It's about what you're doing. What have youdemonstrated as far as leadership? Take every opportunity to getinto a project, volunteer to learn something new, find a mentor andmost importantly, get things done. Accountability is critical.”

|

Once there is more doing, discussions should revolve aroundthose actions, he concluded.

|

“Everyone should be well-prepared with a 30-second elevatorspeech that includes data drivers to make the most of anopportunity to represent not only your department or credit union,but yourself as well,” he said.

Complete your profile to continue reading and get FREE access to CUTimes.com, part of your ALM digital membership.

  • Critical CUTimes.com information including comprehensive product and service provider listings via the Marketplace Directory, CU Careers, resources from industry leaders, webcasts, and breaking news, analysis and more with our informative Newsletters.
  • Exclusive discounts on ALM and CU Times events.
  • Access to other award-winning ALM websites including Law.com and GlobeSt.com.
NOT FOR REPRINT

© 2024 ALM Global, LLC, All Rights Reserved. Request academic re-use from www.copyright.com. All other uses, submit a request to [email protected]. For more information visit Asset & Logo Licensing.