Manager Aware of More Than One Branch

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TRUSSVILLE, Ala.-Ask Doris Nabors for the rate on a one-year CD at any local bank near the America's First FCU branch she manages, and she'll tell you.

She'll also let you know what the five competing credit unions in her neighborhood are up to, as well.

Running an effective branch today requires staying on top of the competition, stressed Nabors, who's been at the helm of her America's First Trussville location for 13 years. "You have to constantly stay on your toes and know what is happening around you and what your competition is offering, because they are competing for your deposits and loans. If someone has a better rate, say on a deposit, you better know that so you can match the rate if a member comes in wanting to move an account. You want to do everything you can to retain your members."

The Trussville branch is in the Birmingham suburbs and surrounded by 20 banks and five credit unions, all within a five-mile radius. Nabors has been working in credit unions since 1976 and said the competitiveness within the financial industry has had the biggest impact on how a branch is managed. Yet as markets have changed and credit unions have expanded charters to serve more members, consumers' perception of credit unions hasn't changed as quickly. "One of the biggest problems we see in the branch every day is that many members still don't think credit unions offer all the services of a bank," she said.

So for Nabors and her team, the focus is on selling credit union services at every opportunity. "When members walk in the door you have to let them know what a credit union is, that we are a financial cooperative but we offer all the same financial services you can get anywhere else."

But what's more potentially damaging to the business are consumers who don't even know they can walk through the CU's doorway. "So many people still think of credit unions as having a closed field of membership," Nabors said. "Some even stop in and ask us if they have to join a union before becoming part of the credit union."

It can be difficult to witness the lack of consumer knowledge about a credit union first-hand, acknowledged Nabors. Like the time when a member referred a friend to the $1-billion CU for a car loan. "The member told me that before his friend told him about our credit union, he had driven past our branch hundreds of times and never knew he could stop in. It makes me want to tell our marketing department to put a sign in front of our branch that says, 'Everyone is welcome.'"

Nabors added. "You have to get to know your members. I have made a point of doing that, learning about their families and the events they are facing in their lives. I have even had members follow me to a new branch if I move. My staff and I let members know we are interested in them, and we treat them with kindness and respect."

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