Operations & Sales: Retail-Related Issues Rise To Top Of The Agenda

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Sales hasn't always been a welcome concept in the credit union community. CUNA's Operations, Sales and Service (OpSS) Council is working to change that by focusing on sales as it relates to service. Two of the biggest issues facing the retail side of credit unions are sales culture and branch expansion. Both are at the top of the priority list for the council this year.

"Sales and service is one of the key developments in our industry. As we focus on creating sales cultures, providing solutions to our members' financial needs is becoming more of a prevalent issue," said Nader Moghaddam, Chairman of the OpSS Council and president of Financial Partners Credit Union. "At the end of the day, when we're talking about selling, we're talking about serving. We're talking about addressing the needs that help create value for the member."

The OpSS Council is the youngest of the six CUNA Councils and has undergone some transitions since its birth. Known originally as the COO Council, its name and scope were changed to better accommodate all individuals involved in the sales discipline at their credit unions. Members of the council include professionals in branch operations, contact centers, call centers, business development and marketing-"leaders who have their hands in the mechanics and operations of their credit unions," said Moghaddam.

Pooling talents from across the organization is becoming more critical to credit unions as they attempt to compete at a retail level with banks that have become very savvy retailers in some markets. One of the challenges will be to incorporate cutting edge technology in a way that enhances the personal experience. A major banking competitor is Washington Mutual (WaMu), which was actually granted a patent for the layout of its branches in 2004. Many credit unions are now moving in the direction of WaMu's Occasio design, which abandons the traditional teller windows in favor of concierge stations. Branch expansion is such a critical issue for credit unions today that the OpSS Council offered a special session on new and alternate branch designs at its last conference. Its members will continue to look for resources on branch expansion this year, perhaps in the form of a white paper or continued educational opportunities.

"Credit unions as a whole are getting bigger. We are going through the age of Renaissance where new branch expansion is occurring, and it's happening while everyone is trying to control expenses. This forces us to be more efficient, to be judicious in our environment and to be better managers and leaders as a whole."

To aid credit unions in all of these areas, the council will continue its emphasis on professional education, which includes a best practices award in several categories, and also plans to continue issuing white papers on diverse topics conducive to its diverse membership.

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